Madrid / Nine Catalan politicians and activists have on Monday been sentenced to up to 13 years in prison by Spain’s Supreme Court for their involvement in a banned referendum in 2017.
Oriol Junqueras, the former deputy leader of the regional Catalan government, was found guilty of sedition and misuse of public funds and sentenced to 13 years. He was also banned from holding public office for another 13 years.
The former Catalan foreign affairs minister Raül Romeva, ex-councilor Jordi Turull and ex-labor minister Dolors Bossa were sentenced to 12 years for the same charges and banned from public office for the same amount of time.
Former speaker of the regional Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell, was found guilty of sedition and sentenced to 11 years and six months while former Catalan interior minister Joaquim Forn and former lawmaker Josep Rull were handed a sentence of 10 years and six months.
Grassroots activists Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart were sentenced to nine years in prison.
Politicians Santiago Vila, Meritxell Borràs and Carles Mundó have been convicted of an offense of disobedience and ordered to pay a fine.
The judgment acquits the defendants Joaquim Forn, Josep Rull, Santiago Vila, Meritxell Borràs and Carles Mundó of the offense of misuse of public funds.
The seven Supreme Court judges presiding over the landmark trial ruled out more serious charges of rebellion, which had been requested by State Prosecutors and would have implied the use of violence.
“The Court finds that violence was proved to have been present. But, while violence indisputably occurred, this is not enough for the offence of rebellion to be made out,” a court statement read.
The convicted politicians and activists were found guilty of staging an unauthorized referendum on Catalan independence on 1 October 2017.
The illegal ballot brought Spain to the brink of a constitutional crisis. In response, the government at the time triggered a constitutional article to sack the regional Catalan government, dissolved parliament and opened the path for legal proceedings against the accused.
Spain’s Constitutional Court, the country’s highest judicial rung, had ruled the referendum unconstitutional.
A Supreme Court press release on Monday said: “All the defendants were aware that a referendum for self-determination, which was held out as the means for the construction of the Republic of Catalonia, was clearly not legally viable.
“The imaginary right of self-determination was a device concealing the political and associational leaders’ desire to pressure the national Government to negotiate a plebiscite.”
In a letter to members of his left-wing ERC party, Junqueras accused the Spanish State of being driven by “vengeance.”
“More than ever, independence is a necessity in order to live in a society that is more free, just and democratic.”
Carles Puigdemont, who was regional president of Catalonia at the time of the referendum and is evading the same charges as his former colleagues in Belgium, said: “100 years in prison in total. An outrage.”
“Now, more than ever, I am at your side and that of your families. It’s time to react like never before. For the future of our children. For democracy. For Europe. For Catalonia.”
Forcadell also took to social media to describe it as a “dark day” for democracy.
Spain’s acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, is due to comment on the ruling in the afternoon.
Meanwhile, the leader of the opposition Popular Party, Pablo Casado, a conservative, said: “Whoever does the crime does the time.”
Authorities in Catalonia, a prosperous region in northeast Spain, were braced for protests. (October 14, 2019, EFE/Practica Español)
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