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Wife of jailed Catalan leader hopeful of acquittal verdict

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Wife of jailed Catalan leader hopeful of acquittal verdict
FILE PHOTO: Former Catalonia cabinet member Raul Romeva of Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) delivers a speech during their final campaign rally ahead of regional elections in San Vincenc del Horts, Spain, December 19, 2017. REUTERS/Juan Medina   -   Copyright  JUAN MEDINA(Reuters)
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BARCELONA (Reuters) – The wife of jailed Catalan separatist leader Raul Romeva says she is hopeful he will be acquitted in the trial over the Spanish region’s banned independence bid, and called for an amnesty if the verdict goes against him.

Spain’s Supreme Court is expected to announce its verdict on Monday on the role of 12 separatist leaders in Catalonia’s referendum and short-lived independence declaration in October 2017, which triggered Spain’s biggest political crisis in decades.

Prosecutors have asked for a 16-year prison sentence for Romeva, and seven to 25 years for the others.

Romeva, 48, was foreign affairs councillor of the Catalan government at the time of the referendum.

“There’s no evidence that justifies these years in preventive prison nor that he be (sentenced) to jail,” Diana Riba, 44, told Reuters in an interview.

She is a European Parliament lawmaker for the left-wing Catalan separatist party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Catalonia’s Republican Left).

Nine of the 12 leaders, including Romeva, have been in pre-trial detention for close to two years over charges of rebellion, sedition and misappropriation of public funds.

The verdict is likely to have a big impact on Spanish politics and could trigger widespread protests in Catalonia if the leaders are found guilty.

Supporters of the defendants say they are political prisoners. The Spanish government says they are being judged strictly in line with the rule of law.

“If there’s a condemnatory sentence, since this is a 100% political case, the only solution has to be political. The maximum expression in this sense … is an amnesty,” Riba said.

After her husband’s imprisonment, Riba decided to go into politics. She ran in the European elections in May to draw attention to the jailed leaders and Catalan separatism. “To enter politics is a natural step,” she said.

Riba said her family never expected that Romeva would be jailed.

She and her two children, aged 11 and 13, are allowed to see her husband for three hours a month in the jail outside Barcelona where he is being held. She also has meetings alone with him.

“(Imprisonment) turns your life upside down,” she said.

(Reporting by Joan Faus and Luis Felipe Fernandez; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Susan Fenton)

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