Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva made a fiery defense against corruption charges leveled against him during five hours of testimony on Wednesday in his first appearance before a crusading anti-corruption judge trying the case.
The plain-spoken Lula, who remains a hero to many working-class Brazilians, flatly dismissed the charges and called the case "illegitimate" and a "farce." He railed against the Brazilian media for having "massacred" his character, saying the media "wants to get me dead or alive."
Lula is accused of receiving a beach apartment in return for helping the OAS construction firm win government contracts, and of hiding his ownership of it. He strongly denied ever wanting or having ownership of the apartment.
Lula, a former union leader who organised massive strikes in the early 1980s that helped end more than two decades of military dictatorship, made an impassioned final statement.
He accentuated his gruff speech before Judge Sergio Moro, who has spearheaded Brazil's biggest-ever corruption probe, by pounding his fist and documents on a table and saying prosecutors had failed to produce any concrete evidence against him.
"When I became president in 2003, I made a faithful promise. I was aware that I could never do wrong," said Lula, who rose from childhood poverty to lead Latin America's biggest nation for eight years. "If I did wrong, the workers' class would never again vote for somebody from a lower level."