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Brazil's ex-leader Silva faces corruption judge for 1st time

13 May 2017

Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks during the Workers Party congress, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Friday, May 5, 2017. "It's as if the media, the public prosecutor's office were seeking Lula, dead or alive", he said.

Lula is accused of having received bribes worth 3.7 million reais (1.15 million US dollars) from the OAS construction company, in the form of a three-floor apartment in Guaruja, a resort town on the coast of Sao Paulo. However, he underlined in court that he had never wanted nor had he owned the apartment.

Silva's lawyers argued that they needed more time to analyze evidence and documents before his scheduled testimony Wednesday before Judge Sergio Moro, who is coordinating the corruption probe. Bottino: "If he doesn't [get this case finished] soon, everyone will criticize him, saying that he allowed Lula to become president".

Lula, 71, became an icon of Latin America's left during a 2003-2010 presidency that saw Brazil enjoy a commodities-fueled boom and tens of millions of people lifted out of severe poverty.

That perception got a boost late Tuesday night when another federal judge suspended the operations of Mr. da Silva's charitable foundation, Instituto Lula, saying it was being used as a front for political activities and that criminal activity had likely occurred there.

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The much-anticipated encounter between Lula and Federal Judge Sérgio Moro, the man conducting Operation Car Wash, lasted for nearly 5 hours.

"I'm here to help protect Lula's legacy", said Modesto Ferreira, a farmer who traveled 15 hours by bus to support Mr. da Silva. The banner reads: "Lula, welcome to the land of resistance. Here is the struggle of the people!"

Wednesday will be the first time Lula and the powerful judge in charge of the Car Wash case, Sergio Moro, come face to face in court.

Since it was launched in March 2014, the investigation centred on state oil company Petrobras has led to the convictions of dozens of top politicians and business executives. Mr. da Silva, who faces trial on five indictments of corruption, influence-peddling and money-laundering charges, has publicly suggested he may run for president again. Furthermore, Moro's Lawfare is a clear and known attempt, with open and ample support from the mainstream media of Brazil, to delegitimize Lula's legacy and his political viability as a candidate for president in 2018 (and given that he is by far a favorite contender). He would be ineligible, however, if he should be convicted and the conviction was upheld on appeal.

The investigation has greatly expanded since it began three years ago, now encompassing several state-run companies.

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As he made his way to the building, a stern-faced Lula grabbed a Brazilian flag and began waving it high above his head, but made no comments as he pushed through the crowd.

They set up makeshift tents along railroad tracks a few kilometers from the federal courthouse. "He was the only one in power who has not robbed from the poor".

A small group of supporters of the Car Wash investigation gathered in a different area of Curitiba. In his two terms in office, he oversaw an unprecedented economic boom and the country's first real experiment with wealth redistribution.

In September, federal prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol accused Lula of being the "mastermind" of the biggest graft scheme in Brazilian history.

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Brazil's ex-leader Silva faces corruption judge for 1st time