Corruption-tainted former Brazilian president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva said Wednesday that a "diabolical pact" has been struck to prevent his return to the presidency in 2018.
Lula, who holds a comfortable first place lead in the polls ahead of the October presidential vote, was speaking a day after an appeals court announced it will rule on January 24 whether to uphold a nearly 10-year sentence for accepting bribe money.
If the sentence is upheld, Lula, a founder of the leftist Workers' Party, would likely seek ways to launch more appeals, but he could still be barred from running.
"The real crime committed in this country is the diabolical pact between prosecutors, federal police and the media," Lula said at an appearance in the capital Brasilia.
The supposed alliance is "to stop the Workers' Party from getting back into power."
Lula was hugely popular during his 2003-2010 two-term presidency, but his reputation has been damaged by steep economic decline under his handpicked successor Dilma Rousseff and mammoth corruption revelations involving much of the country's elite.
Brazilians are so far turning away from centrist, traditional candidates ahead of next year's election. A far right former army officer, Jair Bolsonaro, is in second place in recent polls.