Spanish court jails nine Catalan leaders for roles in 2017 independence referendum

MIchael Howie
A woman holds placards depicting pictures of jailed Catalan separatist leaders Jordi Turull and Carme Forcadell in Barcelona after the ruling: AFP via Getty Images

Nine Catalan separatist leaders were today jailed for between nine and 13 years for sedition over their role in the region’s 2017 failed bid for independence.

Spain’s Supreme Court found three other defendants guilty only of disobedience and did not sentence them to prison.

Former regional vice president Oriol Junqueras was sentenced to 13 years for sedition and misuse of public funds.

The former Catalan foreign minister Raül Romeva was convicted of the same offence and sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment. He was also 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.

A woman holds a placard depecting a picture of jailed Catalan separatist leader Oriol Junqueras in Barcelona (AFP via Getty Images)

The former Catalan interior minister Joaquim Forn and former territorial minister Josep Rull were both jailed for 10 and a half years.

Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, two influential pro-independence activists, were found guilty of sedition and given nine-year sentences.

The 12 were tried for their actions in a 2017 attempt by Catalonia to break away from Spain following an illegal independence referendum.

Grassroots pro-secession groups have previously said that if any of the defendants were found guilty they would organise protests and “peaceful civil disobedience”.

Spanish authorities deployed hundreds of extra police to the region in anticipation of the ruling.

Former Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont, pictured in May this year (AFP via Getty Images)

Reacting to the sentences, the deposed regional president Carles Puigdemont described them as “an outrage” in a tweet on Monday morning.

“It’s time to react as never before,” he wrote. “For the future of our children. For democracy, for Europe, for Catalonia.”

In 2017, police and protesters clashed in the streets when Catalonia's pro-independence leaders went ahead with a referendum ruled illegal by Spain's constitutional court.

The independence drive attracted worldwide attention, triggered Spain's biggest political crisis in decades and unnerved financial markets.

The ruling is likely to colour a national election on November 10, Spain's fourth in four years, and influence the direction taken by the separatist movement.

An opinion poll in July showed 48.3 per cent of Catalans against secession and 44 per cent in favour.

The ruling comes after four months of hearings.