Spain’s Supreme Court sentenced nine pro-independence Catalan leaders for sedition and misuse of public funds, handing out sentences ranging between 9 and 13 years in jail. Three more defendants were issued with fines.
Those issued with jail sentences are former Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras (13 years), former parliamentary speaker Carme Forcadell (11 and a half years), former ministers Jordi Turull, Raül Romeva, Dolors Bassa, Joaquim Forn, and Josep Rull, (12 years), and leading activists Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart (9 years). Defendants were charged with sedition and misappropriation of public funds.
In addition, the court handed out €60,000 fine to three officials, namely Carles Mundó, Santi Vila and Carles Mundó, Santi Vila for disobedience.
The sentences were all lower than those demanded by prosecutors.
Moreover, none of the defendants was convicted of “rebellion,” that is, the charge that carried heavier prison sentences in excess of twenty years. Finally, the court left the door open to Catalan penitentiary authorities to allow for a semi-open prison regime, which allows convicted individuals to spend only the nights of Monday through Thursday in jail.
All defence teams will appeal the sentences, first before the Constitutional Court and then the European Court of Human Rights.
The sentencing takes place less than a month before the Spaniards go to the polls, on November 10, for the fourth time in four years. The issue is deeply divisive, both in Spain and Catalonia. In a July poll, it emerged that 48% of Catalans are against secession while 44% favour secession.
“In a democracy like Spain’s nobody is subject to trial for his or her ideas but rather for criminal conduct as provided by the law,” prime minister Pedro Sanchez said on Monday.
“This is an act of vengeance and not justice,” said the Catalan president, Quim Torra.
Leaders of the regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, said they are concerned about the potential of prolonged protests by the separatist movement, such as those announced by a civil society group that calls itself Tsunami Democràtic, with no visible leaders.
The airport of Barcelona was flooded on Monday with thousands of pro-independence protesters. Over a hundred flights were cancelled.
Also on Monday, the Supreme Court issued a European arrest warrant for former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont. From Belgium, where the Catalan President evades arrest, Puigdemont denounced the prison sentences as an “atrocity” and called on Catalans to react “for democracy, for Europe. for Catalonia.”