Brazil's defiant Lula expected to surrender to police on Saturday

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Ds Silva was surrounded by hundreds of diehard supporters, including leaders of his Workers Party, union workers and activists, in the industrial suburb of Sao Paulo where his political career began as a union official.

Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said he will turn himself in to police, finally ending a tense stand-off with the authorities after he ignored a court-ordered deadline to begin a prison sentence.

He had been on his way out of the building to hand himself into police.

Meanwhile, another group was attempting to mob the vehicle itself.

A Brazilian supreme court justice on Saturday rejected the latest plea by Lula's legal team, which argued they had not exhausted procedural appeals when a judge issued the order to turn himself in.

The union where 72-year-old Lula sought refuge served as the launch pad for his career almost four decades ago, when he led nationwide strikes that helped to end Brazil's 1964-85 military dictatorship.

Demonstrators protest outside the federal police headquarters in Sao Paulo after former president Lula arrived.

Sen. Roberto Requiao told reporters that da Silva planned to attend a commemoration Saturday morning for his late wife, to be held at the union. In a court document, he wrote that Lula should not be handcuffed and would have a special cell in the southern city of Curitiba.

Da Silva, known to Brazilians as Lula, said he would "go there and face them eye to eye". In this particular case the goal is to destroy Lula politically and to destroy his party, the worker's party.

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"The prison order against Lula will scramble the electoral process even more by putting him in the spotlight", said Fitch Ratings director for Brazil, Rafael Guedes. Moro is the main judge presiding over Brazil's "Car Wash" corruption investigation and has gained global recognition for holding some of Brazil's most powerful politicians accountable in the scandal.

After his arrest, fireworks and cheering broke out in parts of Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and other cities among those who long considered Lula responsible for the tide of graft sweeping over Brazilian politics.

Lula before speaking to supporters on April 7.

"Those who condemn me without proof know that I am innocent and I governed honestly", Lula said in a video message to his supporters.

But in August, the country's top electoral court makes final decisions about candidacies.

Barbosa's anti-corruption credentials will help him draw votes away from centrist candidate Geraldo Alckmin of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) and environmentalist Marina Silva and help him reach the second-round run-off, Eurasia said. Technically, beginning to serve his sentence would not keep da Silva off the ballot. It is expected to deny da Silva's candidacy under Brazil's "clean slate" law, which disqualifies people who have had criminal convictions upheld. However, da Silva could appeal such a decision, though doing so from jail would be more complicated.

But he has become the highest-profile figure ensnared in a sprawling corruption scandal that has tarnished Brazil's political class.

Investigators uncovered a major scheme in which construction companies essentially formed a cartel that doled out inflated contracts from state oil company Petrobras, paying billions in kickbacks to politicians and businessmen.

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