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Brazil's Workers Party Backs Lula for President Despite Corruption Trial

Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks during the opening of the National Congress of Education Experts in Brasilia, Brazil, Jan. 12, 2017.

Brazil's Workers Party plans to field former two-term leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in the 2018 elections despite his facing five separate corruption trials, the party's leader said on Tuesday.

Lula, who led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, is still one of Brazil's most popular politicians, though his prestige has been tarnished by graft charges. His party was ousted from power when his hand-picked successor Dilma Rousseff was impeached last year.

"Lula does not need to be nominated. He is our permanent candidate for president," Workers Party President Rui Falcão said at a party meeting in Brasilia.

Falcão called on party militants to champion Lula's candidacy so that it can be formalized in April.

Lula, a one-time labor leader and Brazil's first president to rise from poverty, has not ruled out a bid. He has been touring Brazil recently, showing that, at 70, he is well and ready to run again.

Opinion polls show Lula would not win a run-off election that would unite his opponents. But his party, known as the PT, sees his candidacy as the way to pick itself up and gather new force among Brazil's working class and leftist social movements.

Falcão said in a column posted on the party website that the PT had no "plan B" other than its founder Lula.

Lula has been indicted for corruption and money laundering in Brazil's biggest scandal centered on bribes and kickbacks on contracts with oil company Petrobras and other state-run enterprises. He is also accused of obstructing justice.

His first trial has started in the court of federal Judge Sergio Moro, who has spearheaded the anti-corruption movement.

A ruling is expected later this month or in early February.

If found guilty, Lula could appeal.

But if found guilty and it is held up on appeal, Lula would be jailed and unable to run in 2018.