UPDATE 2-Brazil's Rousseff gets relief from Supreme Court, supporters
(Adds pro-government protests, quotes, political context)
By Maria Carolina Marcello and Lisandra Paraguassu
BRASILIA, March 31 (Reuters) - Brazil's Supreme Court ruled on Thursday to take a corruption investigation into former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva away from a crusading federal judge, as pro-government protests across the country eased pressure on President Dilma Rousseff.
Local television showed tens of thousands of supporters clad in red marching for Rousseff, who has faced growing calls for her impeachment since anti-corruption judge Sergio Moro released a wiretapped conversation of her and Lula this month.
Thursday's 8-2 Supreme Court decision grants Lula and Rousseff a breather from Moro by putting Lula's case temporarily in the hands of the top court, all but 3 of whose members have been named since the ruling Workers' Party took office in 2003.
Lula, Rousseff's predecessor and mentor, is under investigation for allegedly benefiting, in the form of payments and a luxury apartment, from a massive graft scheme uncovered at state-run oil company Petrobras.
Rousseff is fighting impeachment over unrelated charges of irregularities in the government budget designed to favor her reelection in 2014. She could lose power as soon as May if she does not gain more support in Congress.
The corruption scandal, Rousseff's Congressional weakness and a deepening economic recession have led to Brazil's worst political crisis since former President Fernando Collor de Mello resigned to avoid impeachment in 1992.
Up to three million people joined a protest in favor of her ouster on March 13, the largest demonstration in decades. Continuación...