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Media blast ‘legal anarchy’ after foiled Lula release

Rio de Janeiro, Thursday

Brazil’s media scathingly criticised “legal anarchy” in their country Thursday, a day after one judge’s order that could have freed imprisoned ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was shot down by another judge.

Lula, a leftist former leader who ruled 2003 to 2010 but who is now behind bars for graft, saw his hopes raised then dashed in the space of a few hours on Wednesday.

A supreme court judge, Marco Aurelio Mello, had issued an order that could have seen all prisoners in Lula’s situation — nonviolent ones who have lost an initial appeal but continued to challenge their convictions — provisionally released.

But as Lula’s lawyers scrambled to have the unexpected decision applied, the supreme court’s chief justice, Jose Antonio Dias Toffoli, stepped in to suspend Mello’s order.

Thursday’s newspapers headlined the confusion, with some speaking a feud between the judges. An editorial in the O Globo newspaper spoke of a “country in legal anarchy.”

“This has become routine. Recently the individual wishes of the 11 judges (in the supreme court) have overtaken collective decisions,” it read.

Analysts speaking to the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper diverged on whether Mello’s decision was well-founded, but all agreed that the furor unleashed “weakens the image of the supreme court.” Lula’s Workers Party was equally unimpressed.

“Unfortunately, because of a series… of infringements on legal process and the constitution, Lula was prevented from leaving prison,” said party chief Gleisi Hoffmann.

“What we are going through in Brazil is really serious, in terms of instability in our institutions and legal system,” she said.  —AFP

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