Brazil’s former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva defied a judge’s order to turn himself in to police on Friday and start serving a 12-year prison sentence for bribery that would likely end his hopes of regaining the presidency.
Lula remained holed up inside the headquarters of a steelworkers union in metropolitan Sao Paulo, surrounded by hundreds of fervent supporters, creating a standoff expected to stretch into the weekend.
Talks between Lula’s aides and federal police to arrange his surrender were ongoing on Friday evening, according to two people familiar with the matter. One of the sources, who requested anonymity, said he would not be taken into custody before Saturday.
Workers Party leader Gleisi Hoffmann said Lula would take part in a Saturday morning mass at the union headquarters to commemorate the birthday of his late wife Marisa. Hoffmann denied reports that he was negotiating his surrender.
Federal police in Sao Paulo declined to say if they would attempt to forcibly take the former president into custody, a move that could trigger intense clashes with his supporters.
The arrest warrant, ordered on Thursday evening by Sergio Moro, who leads Brazil’s mammoth Car Wash investigation, stipulated Lula must hand himself in by 5pm local time to federal police in the southern city of Curitiba, though it is also understood he can hand himself in at the São Paulo branch.
Lula’s defence team issued a note saying they had filed a request to the UN human rights committee requesting interim measures to block the arrest warrant, alleging bias and the violation of the right to presumption of innocence.
They said Lula’s case had been judged far quicker than any other in the Car Wash investigation.
The once wildly popular president leads opinion polls for Brazil’s election in October and maintains the conviction is designed to keep him off the ballot.
Lula’s detractors celebrated the decision at the supreme court as a victory against corruption and impunity, while his supporters condemned it as an attack on Brazil’s democracy.
The night before the decision, a Brazilian general appeared to threaten the supreme court on Twitter, which shook many in a country that had a military dictatorship for more than 20 years.
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.
Reuters contributed to this report
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