Nine leaders cleared of violent rebellion but found guilty of lesser crimes over roles in 2017 independence referendum
Nine Catalan separatist leaders have been cleared of violent rebellion over their roles in the failed bid for regional independence two years ago but found guilty of the lesser crimes of sedition and misuse of public funds.
The region’s former vice-president Oriol Junqueras was convicted of sedition and misuse of public funds by Spain’s supreme court, and sentenced to 13 years in prison. He was also banned from holding public office for 13 years.
The former Catalan foreign minister Raül Romeva was convicted of the same offence and sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment and handed a 12-year ban on holding office, as were the former regional government spokesman Jordi Turull and the former labour minister Dolors Bassa.
Carme Forcadell, the former speaker of the Catalan parliament, was sentenced to 11 and a half years in prison, while the former Catalan interior minister Joaquim Forn and former territorial minister Josep Rull got 10 and a half years each.
Two influential pro-independence grassroots activists, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, were found guilty of sedition and given nine-year sentences.
Three other independence leaders were found guilty of disobedience and handed fines and bans on holding office.
Monday’s verdict, delivered by seven judges at Spain’s supreme court, came at the end of a landmark, four-month trial that heard from 422 witnesses and investigated the events that triggered the country’s worst political crisis since it returned to democracy following the death of General Franco.
Less than five hours after the verdict was announced, a judge reissued an international arrest warrant for the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont. Puigdemont, who spearheaded the push for independence, fled into self-imposed exile in Belgium to avoid arrest by the Spanish authorities. The warrant said he was wanted for sedition and misuse of public funds.
Junqueras responded to the sentence with a tweet urging people not to give up on Catalan independence. “We’ll return stronger and with even more belief than ever,” he wrote. “Thanks to everyone, keep fighting because we will keep fighting forever.”
Jordi Sànchez, a regional MP and former president of the influential grassroots Catalan National Assembly, said his nine-year prison sentence would not dent his optimism nor his belief in an independent Catalonia. He also issued an implicit plea for calm. “Let’s express ourselves without fear and move forward, non-violently, towards freedom,” he tweeted.