Brazil Judge denies request to delay ex-president's hearing

Brazil prepares for courtroom 'showdown' between judge and former president

The last appeal, to the Supreme Federal Tribunal, Brazil's highest court, was denied about an hour before his evidence began.

CURITIBA, Brazil-The questioning of Brazil's former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva by an investigative judge over allegations of corruption has polarized this country between those who want to see him jailed and those who want him back in the presidency. But he could still become the next Brazilian president.

But Judge Moro rejected this: "The press has no role in this case whatsoever", he said.

In this particular case, Lula is suspected of receiving a 3.7 million beachfront triplex apartment from a construction company.

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva delivers a speech to supporters in Curitiba, Brazil, May 10, 2017. He would be ineligible if he should be convicted and the conviction was upheld on appeal.

A former steel worker turned union leader, he came to office as the first left-wing leader in Brazil.

Thousands of Lula supporters have been gathering in Curitiba. A ruling by Moro is not expected until July. Residents are braced for clashes.

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Silva "has been the victim of a media witch hunt, a massacre of accusations and more accusations", Sen.

David Fleischer, professor emeritus at the University of Brasilia, said Moro has shown he is not afraid to prosecute the powerful. "In truth, the parties in the process are the prosecution and the defence, not the judge".

Moro, the head judge for Lava Jato, has been criticized for maintaining various accused people in preventive prison for long periods.

Already, senators, former ministers and the once seemingly untouchable speaker of the lower house of Congress, Eduardo Cunha, have been arrested or convicted, while scores more high-flying politicians face probes. As such, Mr. da Silva, still the most politically powerful person in the country, is his inevitable prize.

Lula, who also faces four other corruption court cases, vigorously denies the charges, describing the onslaught as an attempt to destroy him and his leftist movement. In his two terms in office, he oversaw an unprecedented economic boom and the country's first real experiment with wealth redistribution.

Like a crowd before a boxing match, Brazilians will be split cheering on each contender. Lula's successor and friend, former President Dilma Rousseff, was also on hand to lend her support. Bottino said it's a reasonable argument.

He says the charges are trumped up to stop him seeking reelection in 2018. "But a fair trial needs a fair environment". The first round of the next election is October 7, 2018. "Like a good part of Brazilians, I am in the struggle against this gang that has taken over Brazil". The timeline creates a new problem for the judge, said Prof. Brazilian prosecutors allege that Lula, as most Brazilians call him, was the "chief commander" of a yearslong corruption scheme that stole billions of dollars from state-controlled oil giant Petróleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras. "And if he rushes, he will be criticized because he is rushing".

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