Nine Catalan nationalist politicians have been jailed for 100 years between them in Spain following a failed bid for independence in 2017.
Former Catalan regional vice president Oriol Junqueras was jailed for 13 years for sedition and misuse of public funds after the first major Spanish state crackdown on Catalan nationalism since liberal democracy was installed following the death of General Franco in 1975.
Although state prosecutors wanted convictions for the more serious crime of rebellion, judges convicted the nine Catalan leaders of sedition saying they promoted public disorder in order to subvert the law.
Regional speaker Carme Forcadell was given eleven years in jail, former cabinet ministers Joaquim Forn and Josep Rell ten years each, and grassroots pro-independence leaders Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart nine years.
Junqueras and three other cabinet ministers – Raul Romeva, Jordi Turull and Delors Bassa, who were sentenced to twelve years in jail -were also convicted of miuse of public funds. Three otyer Catalan politcians – Sntiago Vila, Meritxell Borras and Carles Mundo – were fined for civil disobedience.
The Spanish state’s case rested on the 2017 independence referendum organised by the Catalan parliament that went ahead even though Spain’s highest court banned it.
Despite violent clashes at polling booths between state police and potential voters, the pro-independence campaign won the vote although voter turnout was reduced as a result of the disorder. Regardless, the Catalan parliament still declared independence from Spain.
Seven separatist leaders have fled the country seeking political asylum elsewhere in Europe, despite the EU’s antipathy to the Catalan nationalist movement.
Among them is the former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, living in exile in Belgium, who declared in response to the sentences: “A total of 100 years of prison. How horrible. Now more than ever, we will be with you and your families. For the future of our sons and daughters. For democracy. For Europe. For Catalonia.”
Following the verdicts, protests have erupted across Catalonia with railway lines and roads blocked. Police officers also clashed at the main airport in the region and over one hundred flights were cancelled due to the disorder.
Over 170 have been injured, including about 40 police officers, during these ongoing protests.