By Agence France-Presse
Brazil’s once hugely popular president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva underwent a new grilling Wednesday by the country’s chief anti-corruption judge, Sergio Moro, in a case that could decide whether Lula can return to power.
Moro spent more than two hours questioning Lula in the southern city of Curitiba about alleged bribe taking from the scandal-plagued Odebrecht construction giant.
Lula, a frontrunner in the October 2018 presidential election despite multiple corruption charges, was as combative as ever, calling himself the victim of a “witch hunt.”
“Despite considering this trial illegitimate and unfair, I prefer to speak,” he told Moro, calling himself “the person who is more interested in the truth.”
The 71-year-old, who was born in poverty and served two terms between 2003 and 2010, was greeted by several hundred leftist supporters on arrival at the courthouse.
Demonstrators wearing red shirts crowded around, shouting encouragement. About 1,500 police officers kept a close watch.
Moro is a key figure in the mammoth “Car Wash” anti-graft drive which has uncovered systemic bribery by corporations of Brazil’s political class, as well as mass embezzlement from state oil company Petrobras.
Lula, arguably Moro’s biggest target, is already a defendant in four other corruption trials.
And in July, Moro sentenced Lula to 9.5 years in prison after being convicted in a sixth trial of receiving a seaside apartment from the OAS construction company in return for help obtaining lucrative contracts with Petrobras.
The founder of Brazil’s leftist Workers’ Party, Lula is free pending appeal of that sentence and hopes to string out or defeat the other cases so that he can run for a third term next year.
But problems are mounting for the man whose presidency made him Latin America’s new leftist giant.