Surrender by Friday or face arrest, judge tells Lula

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Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment that will end his political career.

Lula says the corruption charges against him are politically motivated and created to stop him from running for president again in October's election. Under Brazilian electoral law, a candidate is forbidden from running for office for eight years after being found guilty of a crime.

"Regarding the convict and ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, I grant him, in consideration of the dignity of the post he occupied, the opportunity to voluntarily turn himself in to federal police in Curitiba by 5 p.m. on April 6, when his prison sentence must be fulfilled", Moro said in a statement.

Lula was convicted past year for taking bribes from an engineering firm in return for help landing contracts with state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA. That conviction was upheld by an appeals court in January.

While da Silva, known simply as "Lula" to Brazilians, has further appeals available, he could be forced under Brazilian law to begin serving his sentence, which Moro and the other judges have ordered.

Lula had pleaded with the country's supreme court to remain free until he had exhausted all his appeals, but the judges ruled by six to five against his request after 10 hours of debate. However, Lula's legal team was negotiating his surrender with federal police, a source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Lula's everyman style and unvarnished speeches electrified masses long governed by the elite and eventually won him two terms as president, from 2003 to 2011, when he oversaw robust economic growth and falling inequality amid a commodities boom.

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The appeal would nearly certainly be quickly rejected and Lula, once one of the world's most popular politicians, would be ordered to start his sentence immediately.

"We consider this to be a political imprisonment, an imprisonment that will expose Brazil before the world", said Gleisi Hoffmann, chairwoman of the Workers' Party, according to AP.

The head of the Workers' Party warned that jailing Lula will turn the nation into a "banana republic".

Lula's downfall is a serious loss for Brazil's already divided left because he is still the country's most popular politician despite the corruption scandals.

' The day before, the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court rejected six votes against five to grant the habeas corpus presented by the ex-claimant's defense, a ruling that has been widely criticized at an global level.

The court, based in southern Brazil's Porto Alegre, paved the way for Federal Judge Sergio Moro, who has been leading Operation Car Wash, a wide-reaching investigation into corruption involving state oil giant Petrobras, to order Lula's arrest.