Brazil Supreme Court tosses evidence against Lula in corruption cases

FILE PHOTO: Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gestures as he speaks during a news conference in Sao Bernardo do Campo near Sao Paulo, Brazil March 10, 2021. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva had not been treated impartially in graft probes, strengthening his chances of running against President Jair Bolsonaro in next year’s vote.

A dramatic reversal by Justice Carmen Lucia led a five-judge panel to find former judge Sergio Moro had made biased decisions in overseeing the graft probe known as Operation Car Wash, throwing out evidence that could have been used against Lula.

With his convictions annulled earlier this month and the prospect of a swift retrial now derailed, Lula has positioned himself as a strong leftist challenger to the right-wing Bolsonaro, though neither has yet to confirm their candidacy.

Lula’s legal team said in a statement that “the decision handed down today strengthens the justice system and the importance of due process.”

The Supreme Court’s decision could also open a precedent for scores of other high-profile politicians and business leaders in prison to throw out the evidence against them gathered in the groundbreaking seven-year Car Wash probe.

Two weeks after he suspended voting on the case, Justice Nunes Marques cast earlier on Tuesday what appeared to be a tie-breaking vote finding that Moro had been impartial.

However, Justice Carmen Lucia, who cast her original vote on the case years ago, said recent events had changed her outlook, shifting her vote and the majority of the panel in Lula’s favor.

Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu in Brasilia; additional reporting by Eduardo Simoes and Carolina Mandl in Sao Paulo, Anthony Boadle in Brasilia; editing by Brad Haynes, Matthew Lewis, Richard Pullin and Jane Wardell