Freed Brazilian ex-President rallies supporters at union

SAO BERNARDO DO CAMPO, Brazil (AP) — Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva addressed thousands of jubilant supporters outside a union headquarters on Saturday after being released from prison.

Dressed in a black blazer and T-shirt, da Silva spoke from a stage outside the union near Sao Paulo that he once led and that served as the base for his political career.

Da Silva, who has said his conviction for corruption was politically motivated, promised to fight graft and inequality.

“We are going to do a lot of fighting. Fighting is not one day on, then three months off, then come back. Fighting is every day,” the former president said, adding that while he was 74 years old, he had the energy of a 30-year-old, and will bring that to the streets.

Thousands of supporters wearing red and waving flags had gathered earlier around a giant figure of the former leader wearing the presidential sash.

Da Silva was released from prison Friday after the Supreme Court ruled a person can be imprisoned only after all appeals to higher courts have been exhausted.

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He is still appealing his conviction related to the alleged purchase of a beachfront apartment and remains entangled in other court cases. He was also sentenced by a lower court judge in a case centered around ownership of a farmhouse in Atibaia, outside Sao Paulo.

If he loses his appeals in either conviction, he could find himself imprisoned once again.

Da Silva has denied any wrongdoing and accused prosecutors and Sergio Moro, then a judge and now justice minister, of political persecution.

Moro said on Twitter earlier that the Supreme Court’s decision this week should be respected, but that Congress could alter the constitution to change when convicted criminals begin serving their sentences. Da Silva spoke repeatedly about Moro, at times addressing him directly.

“I could have gone to an embassy, fled to another country,” da Silva said. “I need to prove that Judge Moro wasn’t a judge, but rather a scoundrel who was throwing me away.”

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Jeantet reported from Rio de Janeiro.

MARIO LOBAO DIANE JEANTET

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