Lula supporters rally as arrest deadline looms

Lula supporters rally as arrest deadline looms

Lula supporters rally as arrest deadline looms

Lula spent the night with supporters in Sao Bernardo do Campo, the auto manufacturing city where, decades ago, he led the vehicle workers' strikes that helped bring down a military dictatorship.

A Brazilian judge has ordered the arrest of the former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, whose appeal to avoid prison on corruption charges was earlier denied by the supreme court.

The orders follow a narrow Supreme Court ruling denying the ex-leader's request to delay the sentence while pursuing appeals against the conviction handed down past year.

The once wildly popular president leads opinion polls for Brazil's election in October and maintains that the conviction is created to keep him off the ballot. He leads opinion polls by a wide margin.

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The court's decision was met by protests both in for and against Lula, representing a deep divide within the country.

Late on Thursday, thousands gathered outside the union and hundreds spent the night sleeping on the street. The Federal Police of Brazil has ready a plane to take former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva from Sao Paulo to Curitiba, where he should go to prison today according to the order issued by Judge Sergio Moro. The president is expected in courts of Curitiba (Paraná) to begin 12 years of his conviction for corruption; He, however, is located in São Paulo, home to his former metallurgical syndicate, tucked away by his followers and friends, and preparing a farewell speech.

Last year, Moro convicted Lula of trading favours with a construction company in exchange for the promise of a beachfront apartment.

Lula's conviction by Moro was upheld by an appellate court and, this week, Brazil's Supreme Court decided by a six-to-five majority to reject Lula's claim of habeas corpus.

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Lula has described the conviction as a "political witch-hunt" and his defence team maintains he was convicted without any material evidence.

Lula left office in 2010 with record high approval ratings of more than 80%, having presided over a growing economy fed by a commodities boom, and implemented social policies that lifted millions of people out of poverty.

Such technicalities "were simply a pathology that should be eliminated from the judicial world", Moro said in his statement.

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