SAO PAULO (AP) — A judge on Wednesday ordered the transfer of former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva from a lockup in the south of the country to a penitentiary for common criminals in Sao Paulo state. Attorneys of the left-leaning leader quickly challenged the move in the nation’s top court.
Judge Paulo Sorci ruled the former president should be transferred from an isolated single room in federal police facilities in the city of Curitiba to the Tremembe penitentiary, 95 miles (155 kilometers) northeast of Sao Paulo. The date of the transfer is yet to be set and it is not clear what kind of cell the 73-year-old da Silva would be put in.
Earlier, Judge Carolina Lebbos authorized the move at the request of Brazil’s federal police, who said da Silva’s supporters are troubling neighbors of the prison in Curitiba, a complaint that dates back to the day he was arrested last year. She hadn’t specified which prison would receive him.
The Tremembe penitentiary is known for holding high-profile prisoners. Sao Paulo state’s prison authority says it has a capacity of 408 inmates.
Da Silva’s Workers’ Party said in a statement that the move “is yet another illegality and gesture of persecution against Lula, for it arbitrarily denies him the prerogative of a former president and former commander in chief of the armed forces.”
Hundreds of supporters have gathered outside Curitiba’s federal police station since Da Silva started serving his 12-year sentence for corruption and money laundering on April 7, 2018.
He denies any wrongdoing and is awaiting a ruling by the country’s top court this month on allegations that the person who sentenced him, former Judge Sérgio Moro, was biased. A court ruling in his favor could free the former leader.
Da Silva’s attorneys asked Brazil’s top court to either release him while until it decides whether Moro was biased against him or suspend the transfer to the Tremembe penitentiary.
Moro is currently justice minister in President Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right administration and also heads the country’s federal police.
The news website The Intercept Brasil recently published leaked messages involving Moro and prosecutors that it said showed Moro helped them in their case against Da Silva, who governed between 2003 and 2010.
Moro has said he can’t confirm the messages were his because he has deleted the app, but said they do not show bias in any case.
Some adversaries of the former president have criticized the decision to transfer him.
Chamber of Deputies Speaker Rodrigo Maia said he agreed with a colleague who called the move of “persecution for no reason.”
But Sao Paulo Gov. João Doria, who supported Bolsonaro in the presidential campaign, celebrated the decision, saying on Twitter that da Silva “will be treated like all other prisoners.”
The decision to transfer da Silva comes nearly two months before Brazilian law would somewhat relax his prison sentence. Inmates who are considered less dangerous can work outside during the day after serving one sixth of their prison time.