Protesters take apartment that put Brazil ex-leader in jail

AP , Monday 16 Apr 2018

Homeless Movement
A member of the Homeless Workers Movement (MTST) stands on the terrace of the beachside apartment "Solaris" in Guaruja, Brazil April 16, 2018. The banner reads, "People without fear" and "If Lula owns it, it's ours. If it's not, why was he arrested?" (SOURCE: REUTERS)

About 100 members of a homeless movement on Monday briefly took over the beachfront apartment that sits at the center of the corruption case against former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

After a deal with local police, they left after almost four hours in the building.

Da Silva was sentenced to 12 years and one month in prison for allegedly accepting the apartment in the city of Guaruja as a kickback from construction company OAS. He was jailed on Apr.7.

Homeless movement organizer Guilherme Boulos, an ally of the former president, said da Silva's arrest is a judicial farce.

"If this apartment indeed belongs to Lula, that means we are invited to stay, we have his permission. If it doesn't, judges have to explain why they arrested him," Boulos said in social media posts.

"This is the first time our homeless movement occupies somewhere with an express authorization of the owner," Boulos said jokingly.

However the group left after about four hours after a deal with police.

Da Silva is appealing his conviction, which he says is politically motivated, and insists he did nothing wrong.

The 3,197-square-foot (297-square-meter) apartment in the Solaris complex faces Asturias Beach, one of the busiest in the decaying city of Guaruja. Famous Brazilians still spend time in the city, including football superstars Pele and Neymar, but their estates lie very far from the place that became known as "Lula's building."

Da Silva and his lawyers say the former president never owned or lived in the apartment and only visited it once to consider a business opportunity that never went forward.

Lawyer Cristiano Zanin says his client bought rights in 2005 to buy an 860-square-foot (80-square meter) unit from a cooperative named Bancoop, which owned several buildings in Sao Paulo state. Four years later, when da Silva was still president, Bancoop went bankrupt and was bought by OAS.

Judge Sergio Moro, hailed by many Brazilians as an anti-corruption hero and loathed by detractors as an anti-left zealot, ruled da Silva should be sent to jail for accepting a much bigger and renovated apartment at the Solaris.

A poll by the Datafolha institute published on Sunday says da Silva still has a strong lead ahead of October's presidential election despite being in jail.

But Brazil's electoral court is likely to bar him from running due to the money laundering and corruption conviction related to the apartment.

Da Silva will also have to stand trial in seven other cases.

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