Former Brazilian President to be jailed

The hearing prompted protests in support of the popular politician who many say is victim

The director of Fitch Ratings in Brazil said in a Thursday note that a federal judge's order that former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva be jailed within 24 hours added more chaos to an already hectic political scenario.

Social media exploded with expressions for and against the ex-President.

The court's debate underscored how fraught the matter is at a time of high tension and angst in Brazil, which is struggling to emerge from a crippling recession and is four years into a major corruption scandal that has ensnared much of the country's elite, including da Silva.

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The impending jailing of the former president marks a dramatic fall for the firebrand populist, who rose from poverty to become the country's first working-class president.

The court battle mirrored the increasingly polarized election campaign in which a hard-right former army officer, Jair Bolsonaro, is now second in the polls behind Lula, with centrists struggling to make ground.

Lula and his party, Partido do Trabalhadores (PT), are appealing on the basis that Lula's ownership of the apartment was never proven, and that the court's decision was based exclusively on the testimony of the former CEO of OAS, who was himself convicted of corruption.

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Lula was convicted in 2017 of corruption for receiving roughly US$755,000 in bribes from construction company "OAS" in an apartment swap, where a simple flat bought by Lula was traded for a seaside apartment in the same building. After the ruling, Lula's Workers' Party said it was a "tragic day for democracy in Brazil". He denies any wrongdoing in that case or in several other corruption cases that have yet to be tried. It was expected to deny da Silva's candidacy under Brazil's "clean slate" law, which disqualifies people who have had criminal convictions upheld. Sending Lula to prison could fatally cripple his election hopes, even if it is another court, the Superior Electoral Tribunal, that will rule on whether he can be on the ballot. An appeals court upheld the ruling in January and increased the sentence to 12 years and one month. Some exemptions have been made in the past, and the ultimate decision in Lula's case would be made by the top electoral court if and when Lula officially files to be a candidate.

The Workers' Party tweeted that "the Brazilian people have a right to vote for Lula" and promised to take its fight to "the streets... right to the bitter end".

The TSE will not make a decision on whether Lula can run or not until he has registered as a candidate and he has until 15 August to do so.

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