RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Lawyers representing Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva rushed to apply for his immediate release from prison following a decision Wednesday by a federal court judge stating that individuals at an early stage of the appeals process should be set free.

The ex-president has been in prison since April after being convicted on charges that during his term from 2003 to 2010 he accepted bribes in exchange for favoring specific companies.

The decision of whether da Silva should be released lays in the hands of the judge responsible for his case.

The ruling by Federal Court Judge Marco Aurelio is a preliminary ruling that will need to be evaluated by the Supreme Court in April. But Aurelio's ruling is binding, though judges have leeway, depending on the circumstances of each case.

However, even if the judge for da Silva's case decides to grant the ex-president his freedom, it is likely that superior judges would overrule the decision, as has happened in the past.

Brazil's Attorney General Raquel Dodge released a statement stating that her office had reviewed Aurelio's decision and is opposed to it, saying that keeping convicts in prison "is necessary to contribute to the end of impunity, and ensure the credibility of government institutions."

Da Silva is the defendant in nine cases related to the “Car Wash” investigation which has upended Brazilian politics and led to the downfall of the leftist Workers Party led by da Silva.