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Brazil top court reduces sentences of former Workers Party leaders

The Brazil Supreme Court [official website] overturned racketeering convictions of several former leaders of the Workers Party [official website, in Portuguese] on Thursday by a 6-5 vote, which will result in lessened prison sentences. The convictions of corruption and money-laundering in the nation's largest political corruption case will not be affected by the decision. The court found that the racketeering charges lacked enough proof. Jose Dirceu, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's [BBC profile] chief of staff, received a sentence of two years of house arrest instead of his former sentence of 7 years and 11 months in prison. Jose Genoino, a former Workers Party president, and Delubio Soares, a former Workers Party treasurer, received lessened sentences as well. Senator Aloysio Nunes [official website, in Portuguese], a leader of the opposition Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), said that the reduced sentences will not diminish the historical significance of the trial.

In September the Brazil Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that 12 of 25 defendants found guilty in the Mensalao scandal [BBC backgrounder] had the right to a new trial. The court's decision outraged many who viewed the earlier convictions as an end to an impunity and wanted the case to end quickly. In 2012 Dirceu was convicted [JURIST report] of using public funds to pay coalition parties for political support. The 2012 trials of those involved in the scandal were thought to be a turning point in the country's fight against corruption. In 2011 Brazilian Judge Patricia Acioli, known for taking a hard line against corrupt officials and militia death squads, was shot and killed [JURIST report] outside of her home by two masked men on motorbikes. Acioli was one of three judges executed in Brazil in the past eight years for their investigations into organized crime.

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