Brazil’s ex-President Lula in court over corruption

Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionJulia Carneiro on how things changed for Brazil’s former President Luiz Inacio Lula da SilvaPresident or prisoner? Many Brazilians think one of those two roads lies ahead for former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is due in court on Wednesday on corruption charges.

Lula is facing five charges related to the Car Wash scandal, a three-year investigation that has embroiled more than 100 politicians.

If convicted, he could face jail. If he gets off, he could return to the presidency in the 2018 elections.

He denies any wrongdoing.

Lula will give his testimony at a court in the southern city of Curitiba, where hundreds of his red-shirted supporters have been gathering to protest.

His critics are also watching closely, although the case’s judge posted a Facebook video to discourage anti-corruption demonstrators from also descending on the city for a rival march.

His lawyers have made various failed attempts to delay his court appearance.

What is Operation Car Wash?Operation Car Wash: A glossaryWho is Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva? Image copyright Reuters Image caption Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva faces court on Wednesday

Known throughout Brazil simply as Lula, he was Brazil’s most popular president during his tenure from 2003 to 2010.

A former steel worker turned union leader, he came to office as the first left-wing leader in Brazil in nearly half a century.

Unable to stand for a third consecutive term, he was succeeded by close ally Dilma Rousseff, who was later impeached.

Profile: Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

Why is he in court?

Lula is facing five charges related to the Car Wash scandal, the nickname for Brazil’s biggest ever corruption probe.

Image copyright EPA Image caption Lula imagined as a prisoner by his critics

This first case, which is being tackled in court on Wednesday, accuses Lula of taking bribes from a construction company that allegedly renovated a beachfront apartment for him.

He is also accused of money laundering, influence peddling and obstruction of justice.

What has gone wrong in Brazil?

How important is this? Image copyright EPA Image caption A group of Lula’s supporters gather ahead of the court hearing

Lula is typically loved or hated in Brazil.

Wednesday will be the first time Lula and the powerful judge in charge of the Car Wash case, Sergio Moro, come face to face in court.

Lula says Judge Moro is politically-motivated and believes there is a witch-hunt against him.

Mr Moro is expected to hand down his verdict in 45 to 60 days.

Who is judge Sergio Moro?

Gloves off in Curitiba – By the BBC’s Julia Carneiro in Brazil

Magazine covers in Brazil this week depict the face-off in epic style: one shows former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and judge Sergio Moro confronting each other in a boxing ring, raising their gloves and boasting muscular torsos in a montage. Another depicts them fiercely looking each other in the eye in superhero masks, announcing “the first face-to-face confrontation”.

This gives a taste of the huge expectations surrounding Lula’s testimony before Judge Moro.

Image copyright AFP / Getty Images Image caption Judge Sergio Moro has become a very famous figure in Brazil

Like a crowd before a boxing match, Brazilians will be split cheering on each contender.

Thousands of Lula’s supporters are to rally in the city of Curitiba in his defence. Backers of the Car Wash operation will follow closely to see who has the upper hand.

But Lula won’t be speaking to the judge only. He is the front-runner in next year’s presidential elections, and his words will doubtless be measured to convey the right message to voters across the country.

Lula could eventually face prison or lose his political rights. But he could still become the next Brazilian president. What happens in the courtroom will help seal his fate.

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