Rio De Janeiro, Apr 6 (AFP) A Brazilian judge today issued a warrant to send former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to prison after an appeals court said he must start a 12-year term for corruption.

The orders follow a narrow Supreme Court ruling denying the ex-leader’s request to delay the sentence while pursuing appeals against the conviction handed down last year.

Lula’s likely imminent incarceration throws into chaos his plan to stage a comeback in an October presidential election. Surveys had put him as the comfortable favourite.

Lula’s left-wing Workers Party announced that the former president would address a rally in his home town of Sao Bernardo do Campo, a suburb of Sao Paulo, today.

Brazil is divided over the court decisions against him.

Left-wing sympathizers, remembering Lula’s achievement in lifting tens of millions out of poverty during his 2003-2011 years in office, see a plot designed to prevent him becoming president again.

But opponents and prosecutors believe he is properly being punished for high-level corruption revealed through an epic “Car Wash” graft probe that has rocked Brazilian politics and business over the past four years.

Lula was convicted on charges of accepting a seaside apartment as a bribe from a major construction company seeking government contracts. He was sentenced to serve 12 years and one month behind bars.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court bench decided by six judges to five that Lula must now begin his sentence, having lost an initial appeal in January. (AFP) CHT CHT

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.