RIO DE JANEIRO — Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil left prison this weekend to attend the funeral of his 7-year-old grandson, and, while he was out, reiterated to an audience of political leaders and relatives who had gathered to mourn that he is not guilty of corruption and money laundering.
Mr. da Silva, who was jailed in April after receiving a 12-year sentence, was released Saturday morning from a prison in Paraná State. He then flew to São Paulo before taking a helicopter to São Bernardo do Campo, where the funeral took place. He was to be escorted back to his cell Saturday afternoon.
The funeral was the first time Mr. da Silva, popularly known as Lula, has left prison since being jailed. His grandson Arthur Lula da Silva died of meningitis on Friday. A note on Mr. da Silva’s website said he spoke at the funeral.
“Ex-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said at his grandson’s funeral that when they meet in heaven, he will bring proof of his innocence for all the bullying that Arthur suffered in school for having a grandfather in prison,” the note said, adding that Mr. da Silva said he would prove that the prosecutor and judge who jailed him had lied.
João Pedro Stédile, coordinator of the far-left Landless Workers’ Movement, told The Associated Press, “He said to us: ‘Stay strong, I’m going to get out, I am innocent.’”
Leaders from the Workers’ Party, including former President Dilma Rousseff, came to pay their respects at the funeral, while around 200 supporters gathered outside the cemetery chanting, “Free Lula!” The party says he is a political prisoner.
Others said that Mr. da Silva should not have been allowed to attend.
“Lula is just an inmate, and he should be at a common prison,” Eduardo Bolsonaro, the son of President Jair Bolsonaro, wrote on Twitter on Friday. “When the relatives of other inmates die will they also be escorted by the federal police for the funeral? It is absurd to even contemplate that. It only lets him pose as a poor thing.”
The tweet was later deleted.
In January, Mr. da Silva was barred from attending his brother’s funeral despite Brazilian laws that grant inmates permission to leave for the funerals of close family members.
His arrest has divided the country, with some believing that justice was being served to a corrupt politician and others saying that Mr. da Silva has been unfairly persecuted by Brazil’s elite and a partisan judiciary.
Mr. da Silva served as president between 2003 and 2010. He was poised to run for re-election last October but was barred from doing so because of his criminal conviction.