Spanish Supreme Court Finds Catalonian Separatist Leaders Guilty of Sedition; Leaders Face 15 Years in Prison

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Europe Desk

Written by: Will Waddingham, Saybrook ’22

The Spanish Supreme Court ruled Saturday that several prominent Catalonian seperatist leaders would face up to fifteen years in prison for their role in Catalan’s independence movement.[1] The leaders were convicted of sedition and of misusing public funds. They were found not guilty of the higher charge of rebellion.[2]

The Spanish government is hoping that the Supreme Court decision will help the country move on from the political crises of the last two years. Catalan declared independence on October 27, 2017.[3] The declaration came a month after a divisive federal election that was marred by police brutality, and triggered the most intense political crisis in Spain since the death of former dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.[4] The leaders of Catalan’s independent government were arrested shortly after they declared independence, and have been held in pretrial detention since their arrest.

Prosecutors sought a twenty five year sentence for Oriol Junqueras, the former deputy leader of Catalan’s independent government.[5] Junqueras instead received a 13-15 year sentence, as prosecutors were unable to prove that he had instigated violent rebellion.[6] The defense maintained throughout the trial that the actions of the separatists were peaceful and nonviolent. The eight other leaders currently held in jail will receive lighter sentences.[7] Three others were found guilty of disobedience, an offense that does not incur jail time.

Catalan is Spain’s most important economic region, as well as its wealthiest. The Spanish government hopes that the conclusion of the trial will facilitate better dialogue between Catalonian leaders and the federal government.

It is not immediately clear whether Saturday’s ruling will calm tensions or inflame them. The Spanish government deployed riot police to Catalan in anticipation of the expected guilty verdict.[8] Independence leaders, who see the seperatist leaders as “political prisoners,”[9] have pledged that Saturday’s guilty verdict will only spark greater dissent and fuel activism towards independence.[10] Several rallies are planned for the coming days. It is thus unclear if Saturday’s decision will mark the conclusion of the recent independence movement, or if it will only open a new chapter in the push for separatism. 

Works Cited:

[1] Joan Faus, “Catalan separatist leaders to get up to 15 years in jail: judicial source,” Reuters, October 12, 2019.

[2] Ibid.

[3] The Local, “Spain braces for verdict in Catalan separatist leaders’ case,” October 12, 2019.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Al Jazeera, “Spain: Catalan separatist leaders to get ‘up to 15 years in jail,’” October 12, 2019.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Faus, “Judicial Source.”

[8] The Local, “Spain Braces.”

[9] Al Jazeera, “Spain: Catalan”

[10] The Local, “Spain Braces.”