Brazil's da Silva in police custody

Brazil court authorizes arrest warrant for ex-President Lula

Federal police in Sao Paulo declined to say if they would attempt to forcibly take the former president into custody, a move that could trigger intense clashes with his supporters.

A former Brazilian president who has defied a judge's order to go to prison over corruption is holed up in a union headquarters.

Brazil's top appeals court has rejected the latest plea by former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to stay out of jail until he has exhausted all appeals of his corruption conviction. On Thursday Sergio Moro, the judge who prosecuted him, ordered the ex-president to turn himself in by 5 p.m on Friday to begin serving a 12-year prison sentence.

Ever since Wednesday, Mr da Silva and his supporters have tried everything to delay the start of his prison sentence, battling everywhere from the supreme court to the streets. But as soon as Lula got into the gray vehicle, activists pushed against the metal gates, so that they could not be opened, nearly knocking them down.

Massive crowds of supporters have held vigil outside of the building, chanting and waving flags.

A Catholic Mass was due to take place at the union building early Saturday in memory of Lula's late wife Marisa Leticia, who died a year ago and would now be turning 68, Workers' Party officials said.

However it happens, the jailing of da Silva will mark a colossal fall from grace for a man who rose to power against steep odds.

Born in the hardscrabble northeast, da Silva rose through the ranks of the union in the country's industrial south. The union where Lula, 72, sought refuge served as the launch pad for his career almost four decades ago, when he led nationwide strikes that helped to end Brazil's 1964-85 military dictatorship.

More news: Man already wanted for robbery arrested in separate case

Workers' Party leaders insist that da Silva, 72, would still be the party's candidate in October.

Two sources close to former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva tell The Associated Press that he will not travel to the city of Curitiba to turn himself in to authorities.

His social programs were credited with lifting 20 million people out of poverty, according to a World Bank study, and he left office with soaring approval ratings. Brazilian law prohibits a candidate from running for office for eight years after a criminal conviction.

In August, however, the country's top electoral court makes final decisions about candidacies. Da Silva could appeal such a decision, though doing so from jail would be more complicated.

But he has become the highest-profile figure ensnared in a sprawling corruption scandal that has tarnished Brazil's political class.

However, there were celebrations on the right and among prosecutors supporting the epic "Car Wash" probe, which has revealed high-level corruption throughout Brazilian business and politics over the last four years.

Investigators uncovered a major scheme in which construction companies essentially formed a cartel that doled out inflated contracts from state oil company Petrobras, paying billions in kickbacks to politicians and businessmen.

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