Brasilia - A Brazilian supreme court judge rejected on Friday a fresh bid by former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to avoid prison for corruption while appeals wind their way through the court system.
However, though the judge, Edson Fachin, shot down the "habeus corpus" challenge for now, he said it would be studied again by a full panel of the court's 11 judges later on.
"This decision by Justice Fachin will give the Federal Supreme Court the opportunity to apply the constitution, especially as it relates to guaranteeing the presumption of innocence up until a final decision is taken," Lula's defence lawyers said in a statement.
Lula is making every effort to stave off any prison time while he angles to return as president in elections later this year.
Surveys put him in the lead, with many Brazilians remembering his poverty-cutting success during his 2003-2010 presidency. But he is also rejected by 40% of voters, many of whom see him as responsible for the country's subsequent economic morass, and systematic graft uncovered by prosecutors over the past four years.
Last month, the 72-year-old fiery leftwing politician was ordered to serve 12 years behind bars after being found guilty of corruption. He was accused of receiving a luxury seaside triplex apartment as a bribe by a construction group.
Within days of that conviction, his lawyers tried - and failed - to delay the sentence being applied with an initial appeal.
But they did score one victory last week when a judge ruled that Lula could have his passport back, dismissing fears that the ex-leader might try to abscond.
Although foiled yet again on Friday, Lula and his lawyers have not yet exhausted all avenues open to them in Brazil's legal system, even if their options are narrowing.