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Brazilian ex-president Lula holed up in union office amid stand-off

A former Brazilian president who has defied a judge’s order to go to prison over corruption is holed up in a union headquarters.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was in power from 2003 to 2011, was sentenced to 12 years for bribery in 2017 but has refused to hand himself in.

His legal team earlier failed in their attempt to persuade the country’s supreme court on Friday to suspend a lower court ruling that he must turn himself in on the same day.

Supporters of Lula gather in front of the Metalworkers' Union HQ
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Police are reluctant to go into the building for fear of clashes

Federal judge Sergio Moro had given the former president until Friday afternoon to submit to police in Curitiba.

Overnight on Friday he was seen waving from the windows of the metalworkers union in the Sao Paulo suburb of Sao Bernardo do Campo, about 260 miles away.

Police have been reluctant to move into the union building as there are thousands of da Silva supporters outside and they fear clashes.

Multiple sources said talks were ongoing and police expected to reach an agreement on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the head of the Workers Party, Senator Gleisi Hoffmann, said Lula would spend the morning taking part in a mass at the union offices to remember his late wife, Marisa.

The union was where the former president, who is known as Lula, began his ascent to political power.

He claims the move to jail him is merely a way to keep him off the ballot paper in October’s presidential election.

Hundreds are said to have gathered outside
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Hundreds are said to have gathered outside the metalworkers union

He was convicted of taking bribes from an engineering firm in return for help landing government contracts.

When Lula left office, he was an international celebrity with approval ratings in the high 80s.

Former US President Barack Obama once said he was the “most popular politician on Earth”.

He oversaw a period of almost continuous growth and, in a country that has since become increasingly polarised, leads polls among potential voters to return to the job he once held.

The conviction, assuming it stands, will rule the 72-year-old out of political office for eight years.

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