Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has been convicted twice in corruption cases, played in a friendly soccer match with his biggest allies to celebrate being free.
"While they spread hatred, we''re here to spread happiness, soccer and love," the 74-year-old said on Sunday, referring to the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro, his biggest political adversary, reports Efe news.
On November 8, Lula left prison after the Supreme Court - in a 6-5 decision a day earlier - ruled that defendants convicted of crimes should not be imprisoned until they have exhausted all of their appeals.
Lula participated in the football match in Guararema, a city in the interior of Sao Paulo state.
The event was attended by intellectuals, lawmakers, grassroot organization leaders and artists, including popular singer-songwriter Chico Buarque, who are big supporters of Lula.
The former President, who wore a gray and white uniform, appeared to be in good shape and scored a goal on a penalty kick.
Lula celebrated the goal by pulling up his jersey as hundreds of supporters cheered at Dr. Socrates Brasileiro field, a facility he inaugurated in December 2017.
In April 2018, Lula, who was Brazil''s president from 2003 to 2011, began serving a sentence of more than 12 years (later reduced to eight years and 10 months) for allegedly accepting bribes from Brazilian construction company OAS, one of the firms embroiled in a $2 billion corruption scandal at state oil company Petrobras.
The former head of state also was convicted by Federal Judge Gabriela Hardt in another corruption case in February of this year and sentenced to 12 years and 11 months behind bars.
In both cases, Lula was found to have accepted bribes in the form of property renovations even though he never owned the real estate in question.
His incarceration led to his being barred from the 2018 presidential election amid polls showing that he would have won by a wide margin.
Lula''s exclusion from that election paved the way for Bolsonaro - a professed admirer of Brazil''s 1964-1985 military regime - to win the presidency.
Despite his release, Lula will not be able to run for office again unless he is able to get his criminal conviction overturned.
But starting next month, Lula plans to travel around Brazil, organizing the opposition to the ultra-right Bolsonaro and winning support for the leftist Workers Party (PT) as it prepares to compete in the 2020 municipal elections.
- Published in Sports