Brazil’s leading TV network Globo said former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has surrendered to police in order to start serving a 12-year sentence for corruption as ordered by the court.
Lula had ignored the deadline given by the court, which expired on Friday. But today after attending an impromptu mass for his late wife, he was able to walk out of the metalworkers’ union building near Sao Paulo where he had spent two days holed up, and was taken away in a convoy of black police cars.
He will be taken by police to a jail cell in the southern city of Curitiba, where he will begin serving his 12-year sentence.
An earlier attempt to leave was blocked by a crowd of supporters who opposed his arrest.
Before giving up to the police, Lula was surrounded by hundreds of diehard supporters, including leaders of his Workers Party, union workers and activists, in the industrial suburb of Sao Paulo where his political career began as a union official.
The AFP reported the chaotic moments before the former president’s surrender to the law.
According to the report, the crowd of supporters mobbed his car and prevented him from leaving.
In chaotic scenes, scores of leftist activists swarmed around his car and blocked the gate at the metalworkers’ union building in Sao Bernardo do Campo, near Sao Paulo, forcing the 72-year-old two-term president to retreat.
He had been on his way out of the building to hand himself in to police. But as soon as Lula got into the gray vehicle, activists pushed against the metal gates, so that they could not be opened, almost knocking them down.
Meanwhile, another group attempted to mob the car itself.
Finally, Lula exited the car, squeezing through the tightly packed crowd and pausing to embrace one man, before returning into the metalworkers’ union building where he has been holed up for the past two days.
Lula was ordered to surrender to police by Friday but missed the deadline while his lawyers pursued appeals in the courts.
Earlier Saturday, he told several thousand of his supporters at the union building that he was innocent but would accept arrest.
He was due to be taken to the southern city of Curitiba to start serving a 12-year sentence for taking a luxury apartment as a bribe from a construction company.
Addressing supporters, an emotional and combative Lula called himself “an outraged citizen” over his conviction. He said that Brazil’s top anti-corruption judge, Sergio Moro, “lied” about him being given the apartment by a big construction firm as a kickback.
“I am the only human being to be put on trial for an apartment which does not belong to me,” he said.