A Brazilian appeals court voted 3-0 to uphold a corruption conviction for former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in a major blow to plans by Brazil’s most influential politician to run for president again in 2018.

The court also increased his sentence from nine to 12 years in prison.

The unanimous decision reduces Lula’s options to appeal the conviction and he will likely be declared ineligible if he tries to register his candidacy for the October 7 election.

A federal judge Joao Pedro Gebran Neto explains, “As for the sentence for inmate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, I speak of my vote as well as the ministerial appeal which seeks a longer sentence, to include other factors and also the defence’s arguments for the penalty to be set at the legal minimum or at the legal minimum for the mitigating circumstances. I analysed these questions one by one, reaffirming specifically that the issue of culpability has the largest bearing on the sentence, and I consider culpability to be extremely high in this case.”

Another federal judge, Leandro Paulsen says, “I agree with the eminent judge’s vote as well as to what he says regarding the realm of the sentence.”

Federal judge, Victor Laus, says, “I agree with Judge Paulsen as well as his excellence Judge Joao Pedro Gebran Neto.”

The court also increased his sentence from nine to 12 years in prison for receiving a bribe from an engineering company vying for government contracts during his 2003-2010 presidency.

Lula da Silva says he plans to be a candidate in this year’s presidential race despite an appeals court unanimously upholding a corruption conviction against the former leader.

Lula, Brazil’s first working-class leader, so far remains free pending future appeals.

Speaking to a massive rally of supporters in Sao Paulo after the conviction was upheld, Lula said it was based on lies and that he had not committed a crime:

“The court’s decision, I can almost respect it because it was theirs. What I don’t accept is the lie from which they made the decision. They know I didn’t commit a crime. I could spend an entire day with the three judges, televising the whole thing, because what I want is for them to show me what crime Lula committed.”

Lula can appeal Wednesday’s decision by the appeals court to Brazil’s top appeals court or to the Supreme Court.

Lula’s defense lawyer Cristiano Zanin Martins says, “We will appeal, of course, we won’t accept this, because we fought a lot, we fought a lot to save this democracy that we have from the dictatorship.”

The appeal may delay a final ruling, possibly avoiding jail and stringing the process out long enough to register his candidacy by the August 15 deadline ahead of the October election.

Click on the link below for more on the story: