Brazil's jailed Lula authorized to attend grandson's funeral

MAURICIO SAVARESE
FILE - In this July 5, 2017 file photo, Brazil's Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva attends the inauguration ceremony for the new leadership of the Workers' Party, in Brasilia, Brazil. Chairwoman Gleisi Hoffmann said that the party will ask a judge to release da Silva from prison to attend the funeral of his 7-year-old grandson, who died of meningitis on Friday, March 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been authorized to leave prison and attend the funeral of his 7-year-old grandson who died of meningitis, authorities said Friday.

The federal court of Parana state said that Judge Carolina Lebbos authorized da Silva, who is jailed in state capital of Curitiba, to travel 400 kilometers (249 miles) to Santo Andre, the city on the outskirts of Sao Paulo where Arthur Araujo Lula da Silva died at Rede D'Or Sao Luiz hospital.

Arthur is the child of Sandro Luis Lula da Silva, one of the sons of the former president. Da Silva's spokesman, Jose Chrispiniano, told The Associated Press he does not know where and when Arthur's funeral will take place.

On Friday, social media was filled with messages in support of the former president, who governed Brazil from 2003 to 2010, even from adversaries. But lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro, son of Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, said on Twitter that da Silva should not be allowed to attend the funeral.

"Lula is just an inmate and he should be at a common prison. When the relatives of other inmates die will they also be escorted by the federal police for the funeral?" Eduardo Bolsonaro said. "It is absurd to even contemplate that. It only lets him pose as a poor thing."

Brazil's president did not comment.

Most inmates are granted permission to travel to the funerals of close relatives in accordance with Brazilian legislation.

But judge Lebbos' latest decision was a turnaround from her earlier ruling on Jan. 29 which denied da Silva the ability to attend the funeral of his elder brother Genival Inacio da Silva.

In that instance, Lebbos decided to ask Brazil's federal police and the federal prosecutor's office in Curitiba whether da Silva should be allowed to travel.

Brazil's federal police argued there would be security concerns if the former president left the city of Curitiba to attend ceremonies in Sao Paulo. Investigators of the sprawling Car Wash corruption investigation, which is responsible for da Silva's imprisonment, agreed with the federal police.

Judge Lebbos then ruled against authorizing da Silva to leave jail.

Lebbo's decision was upheld by a higher judge. Da Silva's lawyers then appealed to Brazil's Supreme Court. Chief Justice Jose Dias Toffoli issued another decision allowing the former president to meet with his relatives, but da Silva said he preferred not to go as his brother's body had already been buried.

But this time both federal police and the federal prosecutor's office in Curitiba agreed da Silva should be allowed to travel, without giving any details on what changed their perception.

The 73-year old claims he is being politically persecuted. He has been jailed since April 7.