Brazil's Supreme Court has cancelled a ruling set for Tuesday on an appeal by former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to be freed from prison while he attempts to overturn his corruption sentence.
Lula, 72, has been behind bars since April after being convicted of accepting a seaside apartment as a bribe from Brazilian construction company OAS. His lawyers argue that his case was politically motivated. Lula still leads in polls ahead of presidential elections in October.
Supreme Court Judge Edson Fachin on Friday withdrew the case from Tuesday's agenda several hours after a lower court of appeal, which sentenced Lula in January to 12 years' imprisonment, ruled that the sentence could not be referred to the Supreme Court.
The lower court said the top chamber should only handle cases related to possible constitutional violations, a standard which Lula's request did not meet.
Lula's lawyer Cristiano Zanin Martins said in a statement that he will file a new appeal. He said he found it strange that the lower court reviewed the admissibility of an appeal several hours before a scheduled Supreme Court hearing on a request for release.
Lula received another blow Friday with confirmation of an agreement for his ex-economy minister, Antonio Palocci, to cooperate with prosecutors.
Palocci told Brazil's top anti-corruption judge in September of a blood pact between Lula's Workers' Party and Brazil's Odebrecht construction company which gave the party the equivalent of US$ 171 million. Palocci has been jailed since 2016.
Prosecutors in May filed new graft charges against Lula, Palocci and two other political figures allegedly promised $40 million by Odebrecht, which is also linked to corruption scandals elsewhere in Latin America.
Lula was president from 2003 to the beginning of 2011. He left office with sky-high ratings, following a commodities-fueled economic boom and widely praised social programs to reduce poverty.
However, his legacy has been badly tarnished by revelations of a massive corruption network whose fallout continues to shake Brazilian politics.