File photo: Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva looks on before speaking to supporters outside the Metal Workers Union headquarters in Sao Bernardo do Campo, Brazil, April 7, 2018. (AP photo)
The U.N. Human Rights Committee, a panel of independent experts, on Friday said it had requested that the Brazilian government allow imprisoned former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to exercise his political rights as presidential candidate.
Lula is the presidential candidate for his Workers Party (PT) and leads polls ahead of the October ballot but is widely expected to be banned from running by an electoral court. He was jailed in April on a corruption conviction.
The committee, which oversees countries' compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, said in an emailed statement that it asked Brazil's government "not to prevent him from standing for election in the 2018 presidential elections, until his appeals before the courts have been completed in fair judicial proceedings."
The statement added the Brazilian government should ensure "that Lula can enjoy and exercise his political rights while in prison, as candidate in the 2018 presidential elections."
"This includes having appropriate access to the media and members of his political party," the committee said.
Under Brazilian law, Lula is allowed free access to his lawyers, which include some top PT figures, and weekly family visits. He is allowed to communicate by writing, but federal prosecutors say he is barred from making video or audio recordings.
Lula's legal team said in a written statement that they interpret the committee's decision as meaning that "no Brazilian government entity can present any obstacles to former president Lula's ability to run in the 2018 presidential elections, until his appeals are exhausted in a fair trial."
Brazil's top electoral court is expected to declare Lula ineligible in the coming weeks, ahead of the Oct. 7 vote, under a "Clean Slate" law that bans politicians from seeking public office if they have been convicted of a crime and it has been upheld on appeal, as is the case with Lula.
Lula has said his conviction was the result of political persecution and that it is part of a right-wing conspiracy to keep him from regaining the presidency.