Rio de Janeiro: Brazil's Supreme Court has handed former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva a victory, ruling against returning a corruption investigation involving the ex-leader back to a judge he accuses of unfairly targeting him.
Brazil's highest court voted 8-2 to take over the case yesterday, effectively removing the probe into Silva from Judge Sergio Moro, the lower court magistrate spearheading a corruption case centered on state-run oil company Petrobras.
Moro, a judge from the provincial backwater of Curitiba, has risen to prominence over the past two years while presiding over the Petrobras investigation that has ensnared some of Brazil's richest businessmen and top public figures from across the political spectrum.
But he was accused of partisanship earlier this month after ordering police to take Silva in for questioning in connection with the Petrobras case.
Silva's supporters say Moro is waging a crusade against the former leader and fear he could order Silva detained, a step the Supreme Court is thought much less likely to take, at least in the short term.
The full court has not yet taken up appeals of a separate injunction that prevented Silva from taking office as President Dilma Rousseff's chief of state, a post that would give him greater legal protections. Under Brazilian law, only the Supreme Court can authorise the investigation, detention and indictment of Cabinet ministers and legislators.
Silva's appointment has remained in limbo for weeks, pending a decision by the Supreme Court. The former president, who served from 2003-2010, has denied all wrongdoing.
Meanwhile yesterday, demonstrators were gathering in at least five states to support Silva and Rousseff, who is facing impeachment proceedings over accusations she violated fiscal laws. Demonstrators dressed in red, the symbol of Rousseff's left-leaning Workers' Party, were converging in the capital, Brasilia, as well as the financial center of Sao Paulo and other cities throughout the country.
Rousseff's chance of surviving impeachment effort looked slimmer after the biggest party in her governing coalition decamped earlier this week a move that also created confusion about the status of her Cabinet.
Leaders of The Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, known by the Portuguese initials PMDB, said Tuesday that all their Cabinet ministers, as well as hundreds of other federal government employees, would have to resign immediately.
But Agriculture Minister Katia Abreu, a close confidant of Rousseff, said on Twitter that she didn't plan on leaving either the government or the party. Her tweet suggested the other five PMDB Cabinet ministers held the same stand.