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Brazil's ex-president Lula released from prison

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Brazil Justice Minister says ruling that could free Lula must be respected

On the one hand, it will serve Bolsonaro's anti-PT and anti-Lula rhetoric, Couto said.

It overturns a three-year-old rule which mandated immediate prison time for convicted criminals after they lost their first appeal.

It is not yet clear what political role Lula may attempt to occupy now he is free.

Justice Minister Sergio Moro, who convicted Lula when he was a judge in 2017, said the Supreme Court´s decision must be respected, but he noted "Congress can modify the Constitution or the law" to allow the jailing of convicted criminals after their first appeal.

Now, defendants may remain free throughout an appeals process that can take several years.

"Do not give ammunition to the scoundrel, who is momentarily free but full of guilt", he added, not referring to Lula by name.

Lula, once the most popular president in recent Brazilian history, denies all wrongdoing.

Brazil's corruption scandal, known as Operation Car Wash, initially centred on the state-run oil company Petrobras, but subsequently billions of dollars of bribes were uncovered - and dozens of high-profile business leaders and politicians were jailed.

Within two hours after the release request was accepted, former Brazilian President walked out of jail, meeting a large crowd of his supporters who gathered outside to celebrate the occasion.

The socialist Venezuelan president calls Da Silva a great leader of Brazil, Latin America, the Caribbean and the world.

"This will strengthen the Workers Party, but also anti-Lulismo and that will strengthen Bolsonaro's movement too", said Lucas de Aragao at ARKO political risk consultancy in Brasilia.

Workers Party leader Gleisi Hoffman said the ruling was "a very important step to strengthen democracy". The former Brazil President had been imprisoned after his conviction on corruption and money laundering charges. He was sentenced to nearly 13 years in February in a separate corruption case and still faces another half dozen corruption trials. Lula's lawyers had filed a petition calling for his release after the Supreme Court ruled late on Thursday that convicted criminals should be incarcerated only after all their appeals are exhausted.

"I am back", Lula declared Saturday in his speech, calling Moro "not a judge, but a villain".

Earlier, he had posted "Lula Free" on social media, along with a video of himself working out and lifting weights in a gymnasium.

While departing the jail where he spent the last 19 months, Da Silva reassured his supporters in a brief Facebook live: "I'm going to work for the rest of my life to repay you, with gratitude, with love, with work".

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