By Diego Carranza
BOGOTA, Colombia (AA) - An appeals court in Brazil will on Wednesday decide the political future of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Federal Regional Court 4 in Porto Alegre will announce its decision after Lula was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison in July 2017 on money laundering and corruption charges.
Prosecutors contend he received a luxurious three-floor apartment in Sao Paulo as a bribe.
The property belonged to Brazilian construction company OAS, which has been implicated in a massive corruption scandal because it was awarded contracts by state-run oil giant Petrobras in exchange for political favors.
Lula has denied the charges.
The former president, who headed Brazil from 2003-2010, asked magistrates to decide the case based on legal and not political grounds.
"In the first place, my lawyers have already proven my innocence. Second, I think that the ones that are going to issue their votes should do it based on the judicial file and not on their political convictions,” Lula said Tuesday at a rally in Porto Alegre, where he confirmed his intention to return to the presidential palace.
Thousands of demonstrators gathered in the state capital of Rio Grande do Sul to show support for the former president, who has positioned himself as the favorite in the polls in October.
"Only one thing is going to take me out from the streets of this country, and it will be the day I die. Until then, I will be fighting for a more just society. Whatever the outcome of the trial, I will continue in the struggle for the dignity of the people of that country," he told the crowd.
Former President Dilma Rousseff, who was mentored by Lula and was removed from office in 2016, was present at the rally.
Lula’s defense team requested their client not be arrested until after the ruling Wednesday. The head of the court in Porto Alegre said the former president would not be jailed regardless of the decision, but a ruling not in his favor could bar Lula from running for president.
Separately, Lula faces charges in other cases for obstruction of justice, passive corruption, influence peddling, money laundering and illicit association.
*Maria Paula Trivino in Bogota, Colombia, contributed to his report.