Freed Brazilian ex-President cheered at union headquarters

Brazil Justice Minister says ruling that could free Lula must be respected

Lawyers for Brazil's former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva have begun legal procedures requesting his release from prison.

Supporters of Da Silva celebrated the ruling, holding up signs saying "Lula", the name by which the president who governed from 2003 to 2010 is universally known here.

His release is expected to further polarize a country that elected far-right President Jair Bolsonaro past year in a vote that Lula said on Friday was "robbed" from his Workers Party, which governed the country from 2002 to 2016. He was favoured to win the 2018 presidential election, but his imprisonment barred him from running.

Federal police have to comply with Friday's order "with urgency", the order said. He was the founder of the Workers Party (PT).

"You will have Lula more present on the political scene and that allows Bolsonaro to reinforce his role as leader of the anti-PT field", Favaro said.

"The big question for markets is whether he can run in 2020, and that is very unlikely", D'Aragao said. Lula's 2018 jailing drove the two sides of Brazil's already-polarized society even further apart, and his release is set to reignite tensions. While he can otherwise engage in politics, his release from prison is pending appeals that may continue winding through the courts for years.

A Brazilian judge ordered the release of the former president from prison on Friday, startling financial markets and spurring both supporters and critics of the leftist icon to call for demonstrations in coming days. He maintains that he was framed by his political opponents.

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Lula, who exited the presidency with sky-high approval ratings, is ineligible to stand for office until 2025 under Brazil's "Clean Record" law because of his conviction for taking bribes.

Lula is among several thousand convicts who could be freed after the Supreme Court's decision late Thursday to overturn a rule requiring convicted criminals to go to jail after losing their first appeal.

Da Silva denies any wrongdoing and has said the case against him was politically motivated.

In April 2018, Lula started serving a sentence of eight years and 10 months. The country's Supreme Court decided by 6 votes to 5 on Thursday that a person can only be jailed after all appeals to high courts have been exhausted.

Demonstrations in major Brazilian cities have been scheduled for this weekend to show support for the big "Car Wash" corruption investigation that has sent dozens of prominent political and business leaders to jail, many of whom are expected to seek release under the Supreme Court's decision.

That could change, however, if the Supreme Court were to decide in a separate case that Justice Minister Sergio Moro, who convicted Lula when he was a judge in 2017, had been biased. "He is not an alternative for winning political power".

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