On 14th October 2019, the Spanish Supreme Court announced its decision regarding the so-called Catalan trial, a criminal proceeding against twelve Catalan political and civil society figures for their role in the events surrounding the Catalan referendum on self-determination of 1 October 2017.
Former vice president
Oriol Junqueras has been sentenced to 13 years behind bars, the harshest
term imposed on the 12 independence leaders.
Former ministers Jordi Turull, Raül Romeva and Dolors Bassa are getting a
12-year sentence. They were all found guilty of sedition and misuse of funds
for their role in the 2017 referendum push.
The former parliament speaker, Carme Forcadell, was sentenced to 11 and a half years for sedition. Former ministers Joaquim Forn and Josep Rull were convincted of the same time, getting 10 and a half years each, with leading activists Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart being sentenced to 9 years each, also for sedition.
They are all also barred from office for as many years, and their joint sentence adds up to some 99.5 years in jail.
The Supreme Court has also found the only three officials in the dock but not in provisional detention during the Catalan trial guilty, but only for disobedience, which will bring no imprisonment. Carles Mundó, Santi Vila and Meritxell Borràs got a 60,000-euro fine.
‘This is an act of vengeance’
“This is an act of vengeance and not justice.” This is how the Catalan president, Quim Torra, described the verdict on the nine 2017 referendum leaders, who have been found guilty of sedition, and given sentences of up to 13 years behind bars.
Torra dismissed the verdict as “anti-democratic” and a “general cause against the right to self-determination and independence.”
The president also pointed out that Spain has endorsed international treaties granting territories the right to self-determination, and he added that the Spanish criminal code does not mention holding a referendum as a crime.
‘Prison is not the solution’
The historic conviction of the independence leaders on Monday morning has sparked reactionacross Catalonia, in political, but also public spheres.
FC Barcelona has condemned the verdict, stating that “prison is not the solution,” arguing that the sentence issued “does not help to resolve the conflict.” The Catalan club expressed its “support and solidarity” for the families of those deprived of their freedom. Gerard Piqué quickly retweeted the club’s statement, adding that he is “proud to be a part of it.”
Fellow Catalan club Espanyol has released a statement in which they reiterate their “respect for the judicial decisions,” and althought hey refuse to offer “personal or individual positions” over the matter, they lament “the suffering” of the leaders and their families.
The Catalan Football Federation has also suspended all matches on Monday, in order to show solidarity with the leaders and their families. This does not include La Liga or the Spanish national team.
The General Workers’ Union (UGT) have also condemned the verdict as “unfair and unjustifiable,” lamenting that it only “delays a political solution.”
“The ruling means that once again rights and freedom of expression and protest are called into question, rights that we have fought for in our organization,” they have said.
They have expressed their sadness over ex-adviser Dolors Bassa, who was the general secretary of the organization in Girona between 2008 and 2015 and has been sentenced to 12 years in jail. “We will not stop working for your freedom,” they said.
Òscar Camps, founder of refugee-rescuing NGO Open Arms has released a statement on Twitter lambasting the Spain’s “consolidated democracy,” which “incriminates activists, imprisons artists, politicians and anyone bothering the regime.”
President of Barcelona’s Chamber of Commerce, Joan Canadell has said that they “cannot remain indifferent” over those convicted, who are “trying to fulfill the mandate of the people”.
Canadell has urged for a reopening of “the channels of effective dialogue to seek agreements and guarantees with the government of the state to find a way to release those currently detained.”
International response: ‘Dreadful outcome’
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was among the first public figures abroad to react to the sentencing of Catalan leaders
“dreadful outcome” was how Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the conviction of Catalan independence leaders, adding: “These politicians have been jailed for seeking to allow the people of Catalonia to peacefully choose their own future.”
Responding to the news of Monday’s convictions on Twitter, Sturgeon added: “Any political system that leads to such a dreadful outcome needs urgent change. My thoughts and solidarity are with all of them and their families.”
As for the European Union’s response, the EU Commission made an official statement saying it “fully respects” the Supreme Court verdict, but also stressing that the right to peacefully protest “is guaranteed all across Europe.”
Aamer Anwar, the Scottish lawyer of exiled former minister, Clara Ponsatí, called for the “immediate release of the imprisoned people and the free return of those exiled,” on Twitter, and detailed the sentences of each of those convicted.
The European Greens called the sentences “disproportionate,” and the party’s head, German MEP Ska Keller, predicted that the convictions “will only deepen the crisis,” adding that a political solution “can’t happen with political leaders imprisoned.”
Finnish MP, Mikko Kärnä, called the leaders “political prisoners” who have been “jailed for defending democracy.” Calling for the EU to impose sanctions on Spain, Kärnä also said that next week “I will submit a motion to the Finnish Parliament for your recognition.”
Also on Twitter, the former Greek finance minister, Yannis Vaorufakis, was critical of the convictions, saying: “The rest of us must rise up against politicians being sentenced to long prison stretches in the heart of Europe for pursuing political agendas mandated by voters.”