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Lula Defies Order To Turn Himself In


We turn to Brazil, where an extraordinary scene is underway. The country's former president Lula da Silva is defying a judge's order to turn himself in and start serving a prison sentence for corruption. NPR's Philip Reeves is in Sao Paulo where a standoff is underway. Hey, Phil.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: Hi. How are you doing?

DETROW: Doing well - the deadline came and went. He has not surrendered to the authorities. But he just came out and spoke to a crowd of supporters. Tell us what's going on?

REEVES: He came out into the crowd and clambered onboard what is a campaign bus and, there, began a religious ceremony - partly religious, party political party, partly a rally, possibly a farewell - in front of a crowd of thousands. Lula - it was to commemorate the anniversary, the birthday of his late wife. But it was also about him. He waved. He clutched his hands together - two-fist salutes - very emotional tearful, as was the crowd. Many people in the crowd were chanting resist, resist. Don't surrender. And many of them were crying.

DETROW: So let's take a step back. What exactly is Lula accused of? And what is the bigger picture context here?

REEVES: Oh. The bigger picture is this. He was told to turn himself in yesterday by a judge to begin a prison term for - after being convicted last year of corruption. He did not do that. And so he broke the deadline and remained here in Sao Paolo in the headquarters of the trade union where his political career began, holed up with his close advisers, supporters. And a big crowd developed outside. Now he's - the reason he is now expected to go to prison is because the Supreme Court this week ruled that he could not continue to fight an appeal against that conviction at liberty. He had to go to jail and continue appealing from there because he now has to serve his prison sentence, which is 12 years.

DETROW: Philip, we can hear the helicopters behind you. We can hear the crowd. It sounds like a very dramatic scene. Do we have any sense how this could end?

REEVES: Well, the speculation, which is pretty much a consensus, is that he will hand himself in. This religious ceremony for his wife, in a way, is his farewell to his supporters here of whom there are thousands clad in the red of the Workers' Party that he heads. And they're thousands who've come to just to catch this moment in history. And so the expectation is that he will do that and then it'll happen sooner rather than later - possibly today, we think, possibly quite soon today. But it's been very difficult to establish any concrete facts in this situation.

DETROW: NPR's Philip Reeves covering a developing situation in Sao Paulo. Thank you so much, Philip.

REEVES: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.