Five of the court's 11 justices heard Lula's appeal on Tuesday. Having voted 3-2 to postpone debate on whether or not Lula's judge, now-Justice Minister Sergio Moro, had been politically impartial during the former president's 2017 trial, they also dismissed Lula's petition to be freed from prison until that debate.
Lula, a beloved president who led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, was sentenced in April 2018 to 12 years in prison, although that was just the first of at least eight corruption trials he faces. However, the Intercept Brasil recently published damning leaked private messages sent by Moro proving he coached prosecutors on the timing of raids and arrests, asked them to publish press releases that criticized Lula's defense and sent them investigative tips - all during Lula's trial, when he was obliged to remain politically neutral.
“Today we know that the defense was treated as a mere formality,” Lula's lawyer, Cristiano Zanin, told the high court on Tuesday. “From the beginning of the trial, the prosecution was given favorable treatment.”
When Lula left office in 2010, he enjoyed an incredible approval rating of 87%. However, after his successor, Dilma Rousseff, who was also from his Workers Party (PT), was removed from office in 2015 in what was widely decried as a soft coup d'etat, Lula sought to run for the presidency once more. His popularity was such that he was predicted to easily defeat right-wing rival Jair Bolsonaro. However, Lula's jailing removed him from candidacy, and without a major challenger, Bolsonaro emerged victorious in the October 2018 presidential election.
Moro now serves as Bolsonaro's Justice Minister.