Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has been freed after more than 18 months in prison.

BBC News reports: “The left-wing former leader, known as Lula, was greeted with rapturous applause from crowds of supporters as he walked out of the jail on Friday.

“He was held in a prison in the city of Curitiba on corruption charges.

“A judge ordered his release after a Supreme Court ruling that defendants should only be imprisoned if they have exhausted their appeal options,” the report said.

“Lula is one of several thousand convicts who could benefit from the ruling.

“The 74-year-old ex-president, who led Brazil between 2003 and 2010, is seen as a leftist icon in the country. As he left the prison, he pumped his fist in the air as a victory sign.”

He told the crowds: “I didn’t think that today I could be here talking to men and women that during 580 days shouted good morning, good afternoon or goodnight, no matter if it was raining or 40 degrees [Celsius].”

He also “promised to prove his innocence, before hitting out at the ‘rotten side of the judicial system’, which he accused of ‘working to criminalise the left’,” the report added.

Lula was tipped as the favourite “to win last year’s presidential election but was imprisoned after being implicated in a major corruption scandal. The race was won instead by far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro”.

He vowed “to keep fighting for impoverished Brazilians”.

“People are hungrier, they have no jobs, people work for Uber or delivering pizzas on a bike,” he added, specifically criticising insecure work and the gig economy,” he said.

He is now “barred from standing for office because of his criminal record”.

Lula “has consistently denied all the accusations against him and claims they are politically motivated”..

“For Lula’s supporters, this feels like vindication – he’s a politician who stirs emotions and those who back him feel that this has been a political witch-hunt from the very beginning.”

“There’s no guarantee Lula will remain free forever – he may not win the appeals that are left – and he’s also been accused of corruption in other cases which he will have to face justice for, ” the report said.

“But with Lula now free, it will strengthen the left in Brazil – and harden the right. President Bolsonaro doesn’t hide his disdain for Lula and millions of people agree – the anger towards Lula and the Workers Party is what propelled Mr Bolsonaro to power in the first place.”

The decision “to reinterpret the country’s penal code in a decision issued on Thursday”.

“It overturns a three-year-old rule which mandated immediate prison time for convicted criminals after they lost their first appeal.

“Brazil’s corruption scandal, known as Operation Car Wash, initially centred on the state-run oil company Petrobras, but subsequently billions of dollars of bribes were uncovered – and dozens of high-profile business leaders and politicians were jailed.

“The mandatory imprisonment rule was seen as helping prosecutors secure convictions and unravel the scandal by encouraging suspects to negotiate plea deals.

“But critics claimed it violated Brazil’s constitution, which states that no one can be deprived of their liberty without due process of law.”

Lula was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison in 2018. His sentence was later reduced to eight years and ten months, “for receiving a beachside apartment from an engineering company implicated in the Car Wash investigation”.

He was sentenced “to another 12 years after being found guilty of accepting bribes in the form of renovation work at a country house from construction companies”.

  • Feature Photo by AFP: Lula, pictured next to his girlfriend Rosangela da Silva