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Brazil’s former president Lula da Silva was “a victim of a politically motivated trial,” says Valeska Teixeira Zanin Martins, Lula’s co-defense counsel. The Intercept’s explosive revelations about the collaboration between judge Moro and prosecutors prove this

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GREG WILPERT It’s The Real News Network and I’m Greg Wilpert in Baltimore.

It’s been several weeks now since the investigative news outlet, The Intercept, published explosive revelations about the extensive collaboration between prosecutors and judges in Brazil’s sprawling corruption scandals. In Brazil, the focus of the topic has recently switched in two directions. First, Brazil’s legislature summoned Glenn Greenwald, one of the founders and main journalists of The Intercept, to testify about the revelations. And conservative lawmakers there are accusing Greenwald and his colleagues of having gone too far. Also, there are efforts now underway to intimidate Greenwald by investigating his finances and sending him death threats.

The other recent development is that the conviction of former President Lula da Silva is being questioned. Lula da Silva has been in prison since April of last year, serving a 24-year prison sentence on corruption charges relating to the so-called Lava Jato, or Operation Car Wash, investigation. It is generally believed that Lula’s disqualification from the presidential race is what enabled far-right politician, Jair Bolsonaro, to win the presidency. His lawyers are now trying to overturn the conviction based on the new information that The Intercept has published.

Joining me now to discuss the scandal within the scandal is Valeska Teixeira Zanin Martins. She is Lula’s co-lead counsel, and Co-Founder of the Lawfare Institute in Sao Paulo. Also, she’s author of the book The Case of Lula: The Battle for Affirmation of Human Rights in Brazil. Thanks for joining us today, Valeska.

VALESKA TEIXEIRA ZANIN MARTINS Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be with you.

GREG WILPERT So what do The Intercept’s revelations about the cooperation between Judge Sergio Moro, who is now Justice Minister, and Prosecutor Delton Dallagnol, tell us about the fairness of the trial against Lula?

VALESKA TEIXEIRA ZANIN MARTINS Well, it confirms what we have been alleging all along. We’ve been filing habeas corpuses, we have been filing what we call motions for suspicions since 2015, alleging that Judge Moro has never given Lula a fair trial or a fair investigation. In Brazil, there is no separation between a judge who presides the investigation and the judge who presides the case. Therefore, Judge Moro was the one who issued all of the precautionary measures in terms of search warrants, in terms of his arrest at the airport for a bench warrant. He conducted all of the investigations and, you know, subsequently he presides all of the cases against Lula and the Lava Jato. And we have been saying this not only in national courts, but as well in international courts, that Lula has never had a fair, independent trial.

Lula was never given the right of a fair defense. He was never—His attorneys, ourselves, we were monitored for a month. That was while the Supreme Court was analyzing whether in the Curitiba courts, Judge Sergio Moro was going to be the judge against Lula. So we witnessed gross violations of human rights. Evidences, which we tried to actually obtain and present to the courts were denied over and over again, repeatedly in all of the procedures. Therefore, we believe that if Lula is tried by a fair, independent trial, there is no doubt that he will be found innocent. And that’s actually all that he wants. He wants to be tried and all of the evidences of his innocence to be examined by a fair, independent panel of judges or a sole judge according to Brazil, that will unequivocally acquit him.

GREG WILPERT Now, is there a reason to believe that what happened to Lula is an isolated case of politically-motivated judges and prosecutors, or is this an example of the nature of Brazil’s judiciary more generally? That is, what do the revelations say about Brazil’s judiciary?

VALESKA TEIXEIRA ZANIN MARTINS Well actually, what we always claim was always proven regarding Lula is that he was a victim of a politically-motivated trial, a politically-motivated procedure, investigation. If an impartial prosecutor analyzed the evidences that were produced in the files or even during the investigation, no accusation, no charges would have been filed. That’s how strongly we believe about the proofs, the evidences of innocence that were produced all over the Lava Jato regarding the Lula case. Now, in terms of what the judiciary in Brazil and how it is perceived by the population, we also have filed before the United Nations various studies saying that the Brazilian judiciary is not perceived by the population as a fair, impartial branch in Brazil. And I think it’s very problematic for a rule of law for a democratic society, a nation, to unfortunately in some cases act in a biased manner and have the population not trust such an important branch, which is the judiciary.

When you go back to the Bangalore Rules, for instance, in the United Nations in I think 2001, when the world population had a sense of distrust in the judiciary of all the countries. They came up with ethics, rules of ethics, for all magistrates. Those rules are supposed to be followed and obeyed by all magistrates, all judges around the world, so that the population may feel trust and  have a sense of security that the judiciary branches all over the world will be looking over their rights, and will be securing the full compliance of all human rights and all of the laws in all over the world. So I think it’s a very important time that we live. The Intercept’s messages that have been leaked somehow question whether these rules are being observed, and how the population actually feels about the people who are supposed to defend the compliance of the law to its full extent.

GREG WILPERT Okay. And so, what happens now? Can Lula’s conviction still be overturned? Tell us about what your next steps are.

VALESKA TEIXEIRA ZANIN MARTINS We—In November of last year when Judge Moro was nominated, appointed as Minister of Justice, we filed a habeas corpus before the Supreme Court with enough evidence to overturn all of Lula’s convictions, all of the investigations of the Car Wash Operation in Curitiba presided by Judge Moro. What the latest revelations by The Intercept do is confirm what we’ve always been saying in all of the courts in terms of the suspicions and the motivations of this trial— that it was in fact politically-motivated, and it was an unfair trial. Therefore, a tainted trial. All of the procedures of the Car Wash Operation regarding Lula are tainted because they were carried out by a motivated, actually, an enemy of Lula, a politically-motivated enemy of former President Lula. Therefore, we are very confident that all of the investigations will be overturned, annulled, and he may be freed in the near future.

GREG WILPERT Now, recently, there was a report from the Worker’s Party, the PT, that argued that the US Department of Justice has been instrumental in pushing Brazil’s corruption investigations in a political direction to basically discredit Brazil’s Left. What can you tell us about the role that the US Justice Department has played in the Lava Jato prosecutions and in Lula’s prosecutions?

VALESKA TEIXEIRA ZANIN MARTINS This is also one of the arguments that we’ve used in the first conviction of Lula— actually, the one that he is in jail for— because there is a video that was released by one of the DOJ prosecutors, Mr. Kenneth Blanco, whereby he explicitly says that the Brazilian authorities and the DOJ prosecutors have been working informally. And that is how Lula’s conviction actually was able to be successful. That is actually against our law, against Brazil and the United States’ treaty, and that has to be carefully analyzed so that nobody actually can be a victim of such an unlawful or irregular procedure in terms of the exchange of information, exchange of evidence.

GREG WILPERT Okay. Well, we’re going to leave it there for now. I was speaking to Valeska Teixeira Zanin Martins, Lula’s co-counsel and Co-Founder of the Lawfare Institute in Sao Paulo. Thanks again, Valeska, for having joined us today.


GREG WILPERT And thank you for joining The Real News Network.

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Gregory Wilpert is Managing Editor at TRNN. He is a German-American sociologist who earned a Ph.D. in sociology from Brandeis University in 1994. Between 2000 and 2008 he lived in Venezuela, where he first taught sociology at the Central University of Venezuela and then worked as a freelance journalist, writing on Venezuelan politics for a wide range of publications and also founded, an English-langugage website about Venezuela. In 2007 he published the book, Changing Venezuela by Taking Power: The History and Policies of the Chavez Government (Verso Books). In 2014 he moved to Quito, Ecuador, to help launch teleSUR English. In early 2016 he began working for The Real News Network as host, researcher, and producer. Since September 2018 he has been working as Managing Editor at The Real News. Gregory's wife worked as a Venezuelan diplomat since 2008 and from January 2015 until October 2018 she was Venezuela's Ambassador to Ecuador.