Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva released from prison

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Nov. 8 (UPI) — Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva left prison Friday after a year and a half so that he can await an appeals process as a free man.

A judge ordered his release one day after the country’s Supreme Court ruled convicted criminals can’t be imprisoned as they appeal their cases.

The 74-year-old started his 12-year prison sentence in April 2018 after he was convicted of corruption involving state-run oil company Petrobras.

Prosecutors said Lula da Silva received $1.1 million worth of bribes from OAS construction company through a beachfront apartment. In return, Lula da Silva helped the builder acquire contracts from the oil company, prosecutors charged.

His defense has said he is a victim of political persecution.

Hundreds of Lula da Silva’s supporters met him as he left prison in Curitiba. He gave a speech to the gathered crowd.

“They did not imprison a man. They tried to kill an idea,” he said. “Brazil did not improve, Brazil got worse. The people are going hungry. The people are unemployed. The people do not have formal jobs. People are working for Uber — they’re riding bikes to deliver pizzas.”

Lula da Silva attempted to run in Brazil’s presidential election in 2018 from prison, but the country’s top electoral court ruled he wasn’t eligible.