Crowds in S ão Paulo block Lula from handing himself in

Brazil,Landless peasant movement blocked several highways around the country Friday morning in protest of Lula's arrest warrant

Leftist icon Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva spent Sunday, April 8, as Brazil's first ex-president to be imprisoned for a common crime - and his cell was in the headquarters of the giant anti-graft probe that brought him down.

Judge Sergio Moro, who oversees numerous so-called "Car Wash" cases, then ordered an arrest warrant for da Silva, giving him until 5 p.m. Friday to present himself to police in Curitiba, about 260 miles (417 kilometers) southwest of Sao Bernardo do Campo, and begin serving his 12-year sentence.

His legal troubles have left Brazil's October presidential race - in which he was the frontrunner - wide open, with analysts saying there is now room for out-of-the-box candidates, including a deeply religious conservative decried by the left for his stance on woman, gays and lesbians.

According to reports, the pivotal vote was cast by Justice Rosa Weber against Lula's request to avoid jail and begin serving his 12-year sentence for accepting bribes.

"In Brazil, everything is possible, so he could spend a week in prison and then a judge from the Supreme Federal Court could send him to house arrest, for example", said Oliver Stuenkel, a specialist in worldwide relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Sao Paulo.

Supporters blocked Lula's first attempt to leave the union building on Saturday afternoon, pushing back against fellow party members trying to open the gate for his vehicle to leave.

"They have to know that the death of a combatant does not stop the revolution", da Silva told the crowd Saturday, as supporters jostled to prevent his departure.

"I will comply with the order", he told the cheering crowd.

Lula denies any wrongdoing and has called the investigation a media-led political witch hunt.

Last year, Moro convicted da Silva of trading favors with a construction company in exchange for the promise of a beachfront apartment.

Lula's everyman style and unvarnished speeches electrified masses and eventually won him two terms as president, from 2003 to 2011, when he oversaw robust economic growth and falling inequality amid a commodities boom.

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Choosing the metal workers union to take refuge, and not the Workers' Party headquarters, was also significant, said Santoro. He has also said he plans to run for president later this year.

He faces a jail term of 12 years and one month.

He left office with a sky-high approval rate of 83 percent and was once called "the most popular politician on Earth" by former US President Barack Obama.

In August, however, the country's top electoral court makes final decisions about candidacies.

He said that Brazil's top anti-corruption judge, Sergio Moro, "lied" about him being given the flat by a big construction firm as a kickback.

Lula accused the judiciary and Brazil's most powerful media conglomerate of assisting a right-wing coup with the ultimate aim of preventing him from competing in the race.

"I want Lula in prison, I want a better future and with him in the leadership we won't have that", said Maura Moraes de Oliveira, 51, who works as a maid in Curitiba.

As things stand, anyone convicted and losing a first appeal, as in Lula's case, must conduct further appeals from prison.

"You'll see that I will come out of this bigger, stronger", he said, promising to prove his innocence.

Curitiba, in the south of Brazil, is the base for the country's enormous "Car Wash" anti-corruption operation in which Lula is the biggest scalp so far. "Don't surrender! Stay here Lula!" they chanted.

Authorities took pains to reduce tensions, stressing that Lula was not considered a fugitive - something that would trigger a preventative arrest warrant.

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