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Spain sentences Catalan separatists to 13 years



MADRID – The Spanish Supreme Court on Monday sentenced former leaders of the Catalan independence movement to long prison terms after being found guilty in 2017 of the uproar.

Catalonia's former deputy chairman Oriol Junqueras received the toughest sentence: 13 years in prison. Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan leader, lived in self-imposed exile in Belgium and avoided being prosecuted in Spain.

The court rulings followed a landmark trial in which twelve leaders of the Catalan independence movement were charged with committing crimes, from rebellion and sedition to the misuse of public funds.

The court sentenced nine of the twelve former heads of state to incarceration for sedition and misuse of public funds. The remaining three were condemned during the events two years ago for the lesser crime of disobedience culminating in an unconstitutional referendum, followed by a declaration of independence in October 2017.

The verdict came in the midst of another tension in Catalonia, the rich northeastern region in which the Spanish authorities recently used riot police to prepare for the court's decision to launch major street protests.

There was also a repeat of the national elections on 10 November after Pedro Sánchez, the socialist prime minister, did not receive sufficient support from smaller parties in parliament to form a government. It will be Spain's fourth election in four years, highlighting the country's political polarization and fragmentation.

The verdicts were pronounced for two years shortly before the closing of some defendants in prison after being refused bail in October 2017.

While The Seven Judges of the Supreme Court found the Catalan leaders guilty of secession. They did not condemn her for rebellion, a crime that could have led to imprisonment of up to 25 years.

The former Catalan Heads of State and Government were able to file their claim with the Spanish Constitutional Court if they could prove that their fundamental rights had been violated, as well as with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The verdict was also reached when some former Catalan Heads of State and Government waited for a separate European decision granting immunity as elected Members of the European Parliament after winning their seats in the European elections in May last year.

Among those elected are Mr. Puigdemont and Mr. Junqueras, chairman of the Esquerra Republicana Party, which today is the largest Catalan troupe in the Spanish Parliament.


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