Former Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, will begin his 12-year prison term from Friday after a judge gave him 24 hours to surrender to police.
The order from Judge Sergio Moro, head of Brazil’s huge “Car Wash” anti-graft probe, came as a complete surprise given that lawyers had earlier said the leftist former two-term president had at least until Tuesday before he’d have to go behind bars.
The 72-year-old was once one of the most popular politicians on the planet and he easily leads polls in Brazil’s October presidential election. His incarceration will throw the race completely open.
Moro’s office said that in view of Lula’s stature as a former president, he would have “the opportunity to present himself voluntarily” to police in the city of Curitiba, where the “Car Wash” probe is based, by 5:00 pm (2000 GMT) Friday.
There was no immediate reaction from Lula, who had been described earlier by supporters as facing his jailing calmly.
However, Senator Lindbergh Farias, from Lula’s Workers’ Party, issued a defiant call for supporters to congregate in front of Lula’s house in Sao Bernardo near Sao Paulo on Friday.
“Moro ordered prison for Lula. Everyone to Sao Bernardo tomorrow from 5:00 am in front of Lula’s house!” he tweeted.
Lula had been due to address a Workers’ Party rally in the city on Friday afternoon, but that event would now coincide with Moro’s surrender deadline.
Lula petitioned to the Supreme Court on Thursday to be allowed to remain free while pursuing appeals in higher courts against his conviction for receiving a seaside apartment as a bribe from a construction company. A lower court appeal failed this January.
However, the Supreme Court judges ruled 6-5 in a marathon session that under the law, Lula must begin his sentence after having lost that first appeal.