GUARUJA, Brazil — About 100 members of a Brazilian homeless movement protesting the jailing of former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva on Monday briefly took over the beachfront apartment at the center of the corruption case against him.
After a deal with local police, they left after almost four hours in the building.
Da Silva was sentenced to 12 years and one month in prison after being convicted of accepting the apartment in the city of Guaruja as a kickback from construction company OAS in return for his influence. Da Silva, who denied the charge, was jailed on April 7.
Homeless movement organizer Guilherme Boulos, an ally of the former president, said da Silva's arrest was a judicial farce.
"If this apartment indeed belongs to Lula, that means we are invited to stay, we have his permission. If it doesn't, judges have to explain why they arrested him," Boulos said in social media posts.
"This is the first time our homeless movement occupies somewhere with an express authorization of the owner," Boulos said jokingly.
Still, the group left after its deal with police.
Mauricy Magario, a doctor and neighbor of the apartment attributed to da Silva, said he felt endangered by the occupation.
"This is about our privacy and our security. We didn't get along with them because they want respect, but they don't respect us," Magario told The Associated Press.
Da Silva is appealing his conviction, which he says is politically motivated. He insists he did nothing wrong in that case or in seven other corruption cases pending against him.
The 3,197-square-foot (297-square-meter) apartment in the Solaris complex faces Asturias Beach, one of the busiest in the decaying city of Guaruja. Famous Brazilians still spend time in the city, including football superstars Pele and Neymar, but their estates lie very far from the place that has become known as "Lula's building."
Da Silva and his lawyers say the former president never owned or lived in the apartment and only visited it once to consider a business opportunity that never went forward.
Lawyer Cristiano Zanin says his client bought rights in 2005 to buy an 860-square-foot (80-square meter) unit from a cooperative named Bancoop, which owned several buildings in Sao Paulo state. Four years later, when da Silva was still president, Bancoop went bankrupt and was bought by OAS.
Judge Sergio Moro, hailed by many Brazilians as an anti-corruption hero and loathed by detractors as an anti-left zealot, ruled da Silva should be sent to jail for accepting a much bigger and renovated apartment at the Solaris.
Later on Monday four left-leaning political parties, including da Silva's Workers' Party, issued a statement insisting da Silva should be released.
"The hasty and unjustified incarceration of former President Lula, without a single solid piece of evidence, worsens the dangerous and growing atmosphere of political hatred and instability that took over Brazil. The decision, which lacks solid judicial pillars, is an act of political persecution that tends to put Brazil in deeper economic, social and political crisis," the statement said.
A poll by the Datafolha institute published on Sunday said da Silva still has a strong lead ahead of October's presidential election despite being in jail.
But Brazil's electoral court is likely to bar him from running due to the money laundering and corruption conviction related to the apartment.