Brazil’s leftist former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been grilled by a judge in a trial over corruption allegations for almost five hours, later announcing his plan to seek a third term in office.
Lula called the Wednesday corruption trial a “farce” and dismissed the “illegitimate” corruption charges against him. He is accused of having received bribes in return for political favors.
Addressing several thousand of his supporters at a campaign rally after the trial, Lula said that never had anyone “been so persecuted” in Brazil’s history. He nevertheless announced his bid for a third term in the election next year.
He complained that the Brazilian media had “massacred” his character, saying the media “wants to get me dead or alive.”
“When I became president in 2003, I made a faithful promise. I was aware that I could never do wrong,” said Lula, who rose from childhood poverty to lead Latin America’s biggest country for eight years. “If I did wrong, the workers’ class would never again vote for somebody from a lower level.”
Prosecutors say he received a seaside apartment and tried to hide his ownership of it. Lula has denied the charge, saying prosecutors had failed to produce any concrete evidence against him.
Lula, who is charged in four other corruption cases as well, is the highest-profile defendant in a sprawling corruption probe known as “Operation Car Wash.”
The investigation centers around construction firms that have already admitted to paying billions in kickbacks in return for lucrative contracts at the state-run oil company Petrobras.
The investigation has greatly expanded since it began three years ago, now encompassing several state-run companies.
More than 90 prominent politicians and businessmen have been convicted, while scores of sitting federal congressmen as well as one-third of sitting President Michel Temer’s cabinet are being probed.
Temer became president in August last year after Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s ally and successor, was impeached and dismissed over a series of allegations of financial wrongdoing and breaking budget laws. She has denied the charges.
According to federal prosecutors, and based on testimonies received from former Petrobras executives, millions in bribes were allegedly funneled into the campaign coffers of Lula’s Workers Party.
Lula left office in 2010 with an 83-percent approval rating.
“Even if they were to prove that everything he has done was wrong, I would still vote for him,” said Gabriel Marshall, an 18-year-old supporter of Lula and member of the Landless Workers Movement. “He was the only one in power who has not robbed from the poor.”
Lula sits atop recent polls for the 2018 presidential election. If convicted, he would he denied the chance to run.