March 8 (UPI) -- A Brazilian Supreme Court justice on Monday annulled a series of criminal convictions against former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, possibly setting the stage for his political comeback.
Justice Edson Fachin set aside graft convictions against the popular 74-year-old former labor leader stemming from the "Carwash" corruption probe, in which Lula da Silva was convicted of bribery and other crimes in connection with the state-run oil company Petrobras.
His 12-year prison sentence in April 2018 prevented him from running against right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Fachin's ruling, however, removed a key obstacle against another run next year.
The high court judge ruled that the local court in the southern city of Curitiba did not have the appropriate jurisdiction in the case. He ordered that "Lula" -- who led Brazil between 2003 and 2010 -- should be retried in a court in Brasília.
Fachin's decision "is the recognition that we have always been correct in this long legal battle," Lula's attorneys, Cristiano Zanin Martins and Valeska Teixeira Zanin Martins, said in a statement.
But, they added, the decision does not repair the "irreparable damage" inflicted by prosecutors on the former president.
The ruling can be overturned by the full Supreme Court upon appeal, legal analysts noted.
"Fachin has a strong connection with the Workers' party, so we are not surprised by the decision," Bolsonaro said Monday. "But it will have to go through the plenary for it to be properly effective."
Lula was freed from prison in November after serving more than a year of his sentence so that he could await an appeals process as a free man.
He has not announced if he will run against Bolsonaro in 2022, but in an interview last year accused him of leading Brazilians "to the slaughterhouse" with his "grotesque" and "reckless" response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"You can be certain the left will be governing Brazil again after 2022," Lula told The Guardian in April.
"We will vote for someone who is committed to human rights and respects them, who respects environmental protection, who respects the Amazon ... who respects Blacks and the indigenous. We're going to elect someone who is committed to the poor of this country."