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Brazil’s ex-President Silva complains of witch hunt

The Associated Press SAO PAULO (AP) — Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told a Brazilian court Wednesday that the corruption charges against him stem from a witch hunt and questioned the impartiality of the judge.

Silva’s deposition in the southeastern city of Curitiba was the second time he faced off with Judge Sergio Moro, who oversees the country’s sprawling investigation into bribes to politicians in return for favors to companies.

In May, Brazil’s former leader also struck a defiant note when he testified in another case, and Moro eventually found him guilty, sentencing him to 9½ years in prison. Silva is appealing that conviction.

“I am going to get home tomorrow and eat lunch with eight grandchildren,” Silva said. “Can I look my children in the eye and tell them that I testified in front of an impartial judge?”

Moro responded that he could, but Silva retorted: “That wasn’t what happened in the other case.” Moro, who repeatedly asked Silva not to make political comments, then cut off the recording.

In the case at hand Wednesday, the former president is accused of corruption for allegedly accepting an arrangement in which construction giant Odebrecht would buy a piece of land that was supposed to be the site of the new headquarters for Silva’s Instituto Lula.

Several other charges are pending for Silva, who has denied any wrongdoing and says the accusations are politically motivated.

“This is a witch hunt,” he told the court.

Last week, Silva’s former finance minister, Antonio Palocci, who has been in jail for a year, corroborated the accusation in this case. In court Wednesday, Silva said he “pitied” Palocci and said he was lying to save his own skin.

Supporters of Silva, many wearing the trademark red of his Workers’ Party, gave him a rock star’s welcome as he made his way through the crowd to enter the court.

“We have to be in the streets, we have to protest because we can’t accept losing a great leader of the country,” said one, Richard Fogabia, adding that he thought the proceedings were a show trial.

Another demonstration was staged in support of Moro.

The judge and Silva are two of the major players in the near-operatic drama that is the “Car Wash” investigation: Each has his own staunch supporters and bitter detractors.

Silva is among the most senior politicians caught up in the probe, which is the largest in Brazil’s history and has jailed several executives as well.

Odebrecht was one of the companies at the center of the bribery scheme. But the focus has more recently switched to JBS, the world’s largest meatpacker, whose executives have confessed to doling out millions to secure legislative and political favors.Speech

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