Brazil's Supreme Court delivered a ruling that could release nearly 5,000 inmates still appealing their convictions, including former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and other powerful figures jailed in a sprawling corruption investigation.
Demonstrations in major Brazilian cities have been scheduled for this weekend to show support for the big "Car Wash" corruption investigation that has sent dozens of prominent political and business leaders to jail, many of whom are expected to seek release under the Supreme Court's decision.
Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (C) leaves the Federal Police building in Curitiba, southern Brazil, on November 8, 2019.
The Car Wash prosecutors said the ruling would make their job harder and favour impunity because of Brazil's "excessive" appeal processes.
Da Silva once led the union, which served as the base for his political career.
Hundreds of supporters were gathered outside the federal police building in southern city of Curitiba, hoping to catch a glimpse of the popular, 74-year-old politician who is appealing his conviction of corruption and money laundering in connection with the purchase of a beachfront apartment in Sao Paulo state.
The 3,197-square-foot (297-square-meter) apartment in the Solaris complex faces Asturias Beach, one of the busiest in Guaruja.More news: Turkish, Russian troops conduct third joint patrol in Syria
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Justice Minister Sergio Moro, who convicted Lula when he was a judge in 2017, said the Supreme Court´s decision must be respected, but he noted "Congress can modify the Constitution or the law" to allow the jailing of convicted criminals after their first appeal.
They would remain free until they had exhausted all legal appeals.
The court ruled by six judges to five on Thursday night that people should only be imprisoned after all appeals to higher courts had been exhausted. Da Silva stands accused of corruption, though he and his supporters call the charges politically motivated.
The ruling also affects cases unrelated to corruption. Brazil's prime rated court docket has reached a slender selection that might launch just about 5,000 inmates which are nonetheless attention-grabbing their convictions, together with Da Silva. However, most analysts say the decision will not benefit violent criminals as judges have already issued preventative detentions in their cases, meaning a sentence is not required to jail them. Activists also want the release of scavenger Rafael Braga, who was arrested during protests in 2013 for carrying bottles of detergent that could allegedly be used as weapons.
"If all the others did worse and are free, why not him too?"
The STF ruled that the early serving of a sentence was a violation of the constitutional principle through which a person is considered innocent until proven guilty.