Brazil court's ruling could free ex-President Da Silva

Workers' Party members gather to show support for Brazil's jailed, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, outside the Supreme Court in Brasilia, ...
President of Brazil's Federal Supreme Court Dias Toffoli, left, opens debate on whether a defendant is to begin serving his sentence after a convictio...

Workers' Party members gather to show support for Brazil's jailed, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, outside the Supreme Court in Brasilia, ...

President of Brazil's Federal Supreme Court Dias Toffoli, left, opens debate on whether a defendant is to begin serving his sentence after a convictio...

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazil's highest court has reached a narrow decision that could release almost 5,000 inmates who are still appealing their convictions, including jailed former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

The country's Supreme Court decided on a 6-5 vote Thursday night that a person can be imprisoned only after all appeals to higher courts have been exhausted.

The tie-breaking vote was cast by Chief Justice José Dias Toffoli.

The decision appears to cover Da Silva and others convicted in cases that arose from the sprawling "Car Wash" corruption probe. That probe has ensnared dozens of top politicians and businessmen in Latin America's biggest nation and many will be able to seek release under the ruling.

The debate began in mid-October and its result may throw Brazil's political landscape into uncertainty.