Spain’s supreme court has sentenced nine pro-independence Catalan leaders, including the former deputy leader of the region’s government, to prison terms of up to 13 years for sedition and other offences, in the climax of what the head of the court has called the most important judgment in the history of Spanish democracy.
In recent days Madrid has sent hundreds of law enforcement officials to Catalonia in anticipation of widespread protests against the sentencing and a possible deepening of the rupture between Catalan separatists and the government.
In its decision, which was widely leaked ahead of time, the Supreme Court found the chief defendants guilty of sedition but not of the graver offence of rebellion, which is classified as a crime against the constitution, involving a degree of violence.
The court sentenced Oriol Junqueras, the former deputy leader of the region, to 13 years of prison for sedition and abuse of public funds, while six other former Catalan officials were sentenced to 10 to 12 years. Two other Catalan politicians who headed pro-independence organisations were sentenced to nine years each. Three other defendants were fined and barred from public office for 20 months.
The focus of the case was the illegal referendum on Catalan independence held on October 1 2017, which the then Catalan authorities put in motion despite the national constitution’s provisions on the “indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation”, and a subsequent declaration of independence, which broke with the region’s legal order.
The judges ruled that the defendants had used “the imagined right of self-determination” to put pressure on the country’s constitutional order.
“100 years in prison in total. An outrage,” tweeted Carles Puigdemont, the former head of the region, who fled to Belgium rather than face trial. “It’s now the time to react, like never before . . . For democracy. For Europe. For Catalonia.”
Delivering the caretaker Socialist government’s initial response, José Luis Ábalos, Spain’s industry minister, said Spain should congratulate itself for the functioning of the state of law and now move on to another phase.