Former leader Lula da Silva returns to his trade union stronghold near Sao Paulo city to address supporters, a day after walking free from jail and amid President Bolsonaro's swipes.
Brazil's left-wing leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva returned to his trade union stronghold on Saturday to address throngs of celebrating supporters, a day after walking free from jail.
Lula's visit to the metalworkers' union he once led near Sao Paulo, Brazil's biggest city, came after his arch-nemesis, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, branded him a "scoundrel."
Bolsonaro told his Twitter followers that Lula was "momentarily free, but guilty."
Lula arrived at the union in Sao Bernardo do Campo and was immediately mobbed as people jostled to hug and shake hands with the former metalworker who rose to become one of Brazil's most popular presidents.
The compound was decorated with a huge banner of Lula's image and surrounded by a sea of supporters wearing red T-shirts and waving "Free Lula" flags.
"I am grateful that they released him from unjust imprisonment, from a fraud," Roque Enrique, 24, told AFP, as she waited for Lula to arrive.
Lula's release came after a politically-sensitive Supreme Court ruling on Thursday that could free thousands of convicts.
A 6-5 decision overturned a rule requiring convicted criminals to go to jail after losing their first appeal.
Those convicts would remain free until they had exhausted their rights to appeal — a process critics say could take years in cases involving people able to afford expensive lawyers.
A reinvigorated left?
Lula's criminal record prevents him from running for political office, at least for now.
But his freedom is likely to reinvigorate the rudderless left that has floundered since the charismatic 74-year-old was jailed in April 2018 for corruption.
It also threatens to deepen political divisions in the country as Bolsonaro, who was swept to power last year on a wave of anti-left sentiment, goes on the offensive.
The court decision undermines a sprawling corruption investigation called Car Wash that has put dozens of political and business leaders behind bars, including Lula — a probe supported by many ordinary Brazilians fed up with white-collar crime.
In an impassioned address on Friday to hundreds of supporters who greeted him as he walked out of the federal police headquarters in the southern city of Curitiba, Lula vowed to keep fighting for poor people.
The former union leader who helped found the Workers Party (PT) denounced the economic policies of Bolsonaro.
"People are hungrier, they have no jobs, people work for Uber or delivering pizzas on a bike," Lula said in remarks sometimes drowned out by cheers from the crowd and fireworks overhead.
Lula, who led Brazil through a historic boom from 2003 to 2010, earning him the gratitude of millions of Brazilians for redistributing wealth to haul them out of poverty, was serving eight years and 10 months for corruption.
He was sentenced to almost 13 years in jail in February in a separate corruption case and still faces another half dozen corruption trials.
Lula has denied all the charges, arguing they were politically motivated to keep him out of the 2018 presidential election that he was tipped to win.
Bolsonaro, who ultimately won, said on the campaign trail that he hoped Lula would "rot in prison."
Justice Minister Sergio Moro, who convicted Lula when he was a judge in 2017, reiterated on Saturday the Supreme Court's decision must be respected, but he noted the ruling could be "altered... by Congress" to allow the jailing of convicted criminals after their first appeal.
Left-wing leaders from around the world, including Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro and US liberal presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, welcomed Lula's release.
"I am delighted that he has been released from jail, something that never should have happened in the first place," Sanders tweeted.
Lula's political future could change if the Supreme Court were to decide in a separate case that Moro had been biased.
Lula has indicated he is not going to sit on the political sidelines.
Speaking on Friday, he said, "I'm going to Sao Paulo and afterward the doors of Brazil will be open so that I can travel around this country."