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Ex-Brazilian president Lula da Silva in custody after stand-off

A former Brazilian president has turned himself in to police, after previously refusing to comply with a judge’s order to go to prison over corruption.

Federal judge Sergio Moro had given Lula da Silva until Friday afternoon to submit to the authorities, but he remained holed up in the metalworkers union in a Sao Paulo suburb, about 260 miles from where he was due to report.

He told supporters on Saturday that he would surrender – only for them to blockade the building so that he could not hand himself in.

After a tense showdown with police the popular ex-president is now in custody.

Supporters of the president reportedly tore down a fence
Supporters of the president reportedly tore down a fence

Lula, who was in power from 2003 to 2011, was sentenced to 12 years for bribery in 2017.

He continues to proclaim his innocence, arguing the charges are a means for political rivals to prevent him from running for election in October.

Addressing supporters on Saturday, he said prosecutors had “lied” but added he would “go there and face them eye to eye”.

“I don’t forgive them for giving society the idea that I am a thief,” he said.

Supporters of Lula gather in front of the Metalworkers' Union HQ
Police were reluctant to go into the building where he was holed up for fear of clashes

The stand-off followed a failed attempt by Lula’s legal team to persuade Brazil’s supreme court to suspend a lower court ruling that he must turn himself in to prison.

Overnight on Friday he was seen waving from the windows of the building, with police reluctant to take action for fear of clashes.

The union was where the former president began his ascent to political power. He climbed through its ranks as a young man and was repeatedly arrested in the 1980s for organising strikes, before being elected in 2002.

Supporters surrounded the ex-president following his speech
Supporters surrounded the ex-president following his speech

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.

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

Lula da Silva waves to his supporters at the window of the Metalworkers' Union
Lula da Silva has been seen waving to supporters from a union building in Sao Paulo

The conviction, assuming it stands, will rule the 72-year-old out of political office for eight years under a “clean slate” law that disqualifies those with criminal convictions.

Workers’ Party leaders insist he will still be the party’s candidate and Lula says the move to jail him is a way to keep him off the ballot paper in October’s presidential election.

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