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Harvard Professor Sees "Presumption of Guilt" Used Against Ex-President Lula

11/04/2016 - 12h52

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THAIS BILENKY
FROM SÃO PAULO

According to anthropologist and Harvard professor John Comaroff, 71, Operation Lava Jato (Car Wash) is breaking the law and using the "presumption of guilt" to prosecute former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

The professor of South African origin and "lawfare" specialist - a term used to describe the manipulation of the law for political purposes - has been consulting with Lula's attorneys, who have embraced the term.

He believes that judge Sergio Moro should be replaced so that concerns regarding his conduct in the lawsuits the former president is involved in can be appraised.

"By leaking private conversations, even if there are 20 people participating, if Lula is among them then you know that's who the media is going to talk about. That's 'lawfare'. You manipulate the law and create the presumption of guilt", Comaroff said.

In August, Brazil's supreme court ruled that the recordings obtained after the authorization to tap Lula's phone conversations had expired were illegal.

However, Moro had already made the conversations public, stirring up controversy over Lula's use of language, and especially the conversation in which former president Dilma Rousseff suggests that she would name him minister, granting him partial immunity.

Comaroff also questioned the bugs planted in Lula's lawyers' law firm, which he considered "highly illegal anywhere in the world".

The anthropologist was approached by Lula's lawyers for being an expert witness in "lawfare" - although the professor says he will not be providing any services to the defense.

"I'm trying to understand the case. My colleagues here at Harvard can't make sense of it. There are facts about it that bother the international audience", he said.

Given the formal complaints raised by the defense regarding Moro's conduct, the anthropologist said that by recusing himself Moro would demonstrate that the operation is politically unbiased.

"Why not? There are certainly many other competent judges in Brazil. In order to keep the justice system as clean as possible you can't miss out on opportunities to avoid conflicts of interest and questionable conduct."

The former president's lawyers filed several complaints against Moro and the task force because of what they considered clear abuses of authority, such as keeping them from accessing the full investigations against their client.

There are three separate lawsuits in which Lula is being charged of corruption as well as other crimes. His attorneys have also appealed to the UN, which is reviewing his case.

Translated by THOMAS MATHEWSON

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