Ex-Brazilian president denies trying to obstruct graft probe

A former Brazilian president denied in court Tuesday that he was part of a plot to impede the sprawling corruption probe at the state oil company and likened the barrage of media attention on the charges against him to a “massacre.”

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been accused, along with several others, of plotting to buy off or otherwise prevent a former Petrobras executive from revealing what he knew about the bribery scheme. Silva testified he didn’t even know former oil company director Nestor Cervero and never had contact with him.

“I have absolutely no reason to have any problem with the testimony of Cervero — no reason at all. I don’t know (him),” Silva said, according to a video provided by the court.

State oil giant Petrobras is at the center of a wide-ranging investigation into kickbacks and inflated contracts at state companies. The probe has ensnared dozens of high-level politicians and executives. Cervero was convicted in connection with the probe and is cooperating with prosecutors.

At the beginning of nearly an hour of testimony, Silva was asked if he was familiar with the accusations against him and whether they were true. He responded: “The information is false.”

Silva, who was president in 2003-2010, is also facing charges in a handful of other cases linked to the probe. He has maintained his innocence in all of them, saying the allegations are politically motivated. Despite these legal challenges, Silva is leading some polls for next year’s presidential election.

The former president occasionally appeared emotional, frustrated or even angry during his testimony. He made several self-aggrandizing claims, including that his presidency turned…