When presidents face the law- from South Korea’s Park to Brazil’s Lula

Brazil’s Ex-President Lula Da Silva who is in prison for corruption charges. [Photo: Courtesy]

Former Brazil President Luiz Lula da Silva was most likely headed to win an election but the law is not a respecter of people. Big or small.

The populist politician is the latest president to be jailed. Lula surrendered himself to police on Sunday, ending a dramatic standoff.  He is serving a 12-year prison sentence for corruption having accepted a luxury apartment as a bribe from a construction company and is the biggest scalp so far in the "Car Wash” campaign against graft.

Heads of State facing criminal charges have been subject to public ridicule because of the positions they occupy. And, don’t people like it when the mighty tumble down?  

Meet some of the presidents in jail and those staring at it.

Ousted South Korean president Park Geun-hye given 24 years in jail over corruption. [Photo: Courtesy]

On Friday last week, South Korea's disgraced former president Park Geun-hye was jailed for 24 years for corruption and fined Sh18 billion in a dramatic fall from grace. She was the country's first female president.

The sentence followed a trial lasting more than 10 months which ended with Park being found guilty on multiple criminal charges, including bribery and abuse of power. Park, 64, is the daughter of assassinated dictator Park Chung-hee. She took office in 2013, serving for four years as a conservative icon who cast herself in the role of daughter of the nation, incorruptible and beholden to none.

Closer home, one-time Liberia president and warlord Charles Taylor is serving a 50-year sentence for war crimes in a British prison. The Hague found Taylor guilty of 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law, including murder, forced labour and slavery, recruiting child soldiers and rape. He served as Liberia’s President from 1997-2003.

Egypt’s ousted President Mohamed Morsi was handed a life sentence in 2016 after being found guilty of spying for Qatar. He was also given a 20-year sentence over the killing of protesters in December 2012, and is being tried in several other cases related to espionage and conspiring with foreign groups. Morsi came into power in 2013, becoming the country’s first democratically elected leader.

Leaders facing charges

Former South African president Jacob Zuma in court facing corruption charges. [Photo: Courtesy]

Embattled former South Africa President Jacob Zuma tops the list. Zuma who resigned in February, was charged with a corruption scandal linked to a 1990s arms deal. He faces 16 counts of corruption, racketeering, fraud and money laundering, which dogged his presidency and were reinstated in 2016. However, the case was adjourned until June 8 this year. Zuma came into power in 2009 ruling for eight years.

 Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also being investigated for bribery. On February 13, Israeli police released a statement saying there was enough evidence to indict the PM for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two separate cases. However, Netanyahu has since dismissed the claims terming them baseless and that he would continue serving.  If found guilty, he could spend years between gray walls like former PM Ehud Olmert who was convicted in 2014 for accepting bribes to promote a real-estate project in Jerusalem and obstructing justice.

Not far from controversy is flamboyant former French PM Nicholas Sarkozy who was arrested last month over allegations that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the late Libyan despot, illegally funded his first presidential campaign. Sarkozy who was the head of state between 2007 and 2012 denied any wrongdoing.  He is also accused of peddling influence.

Italy’s former Prime minister and powerbroker Silvio Berlusconi was convicted for a tax fraud in 2013. [Photo: Courtesy]

Italy’s four-time prime minister and powerbroker Silvio Berlusconi has over the years brushed off sex-scandals, corruption and tax evasion allegations. He was convicted of a tax fraud in 2013. This would have him serve a four-year jail term but which was turned to a year of community service at a care home near Milan due to his old age. 

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