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Catalonia erupts with violence after prison verdict for separatist leaders

Fire in a BArcelona street during protests on Wednesday night.
Fire in a BArcelona street during protests on Wednesday night. / REUTERS
  • Nine found guilty have been given sentences of between 9 and 13 years for their part in the illegal declaration if independence in 2017

While there was disagreement between the sides as to whether it was down to organised mob action or outbreaks of spontaneous frustration, one thing was certain this week: the decision by the Supreme Court to send nine Catalan separatist leaders to prison for between nine and 13 years each had unleashed the violence in Catalonia that many had been fearing. The sentenced politicians and activist leaders had been on trial for their part in the illegal declaration of independence in the region in 2017.

Demonstrators in Barcelona on Thrusday.

Demonstrators in Barcelona on Thrusday. / REUTERS

For consecutive nights after the sentence was made public on Monday, chaos broke out in Barcelona and towns and cities across Catalonia as pro-separatist supporters vented their anger. Reports said hundreds had been injured.

During the day on Monday, the initial focus of the unrest was Barcelona's busy El Prat airport, where blockages forced 110 flights to be cancelled as passengers and staff couldn't reach the terminal.

On Tuesday night, police said 157 separate barricades were set up across Barcelona by the protesters, and cars set ablaze. On Wednesday, more blockading was reported in the city, with police saying they had been attacked by acid, stones and Molotov cocktails.

There was criticism of pro-separatist regional president, Quim Torra, for not condemning the violence soon enough. He had called for demonstrations despite being responsible for controlling the regional police responsible for breaking up the protests. Meanwhile, the acting national government was trying to identify the organisers of the violent elements who were encouraging action over social media.

Sedition and embezzlement

The nine given prison sentences had been on trial for their role in the illegal referendum and have also been barred from holding public office for the same length of time as their sentences.

The longest sentence, 13 years for sedition and embezzlement, was handed to former Catalan regional vice-president, Oriol Junqueras, who was named in the verdict as the "recognisable leader" of the independence drive. Former Catalan ministers, Raül Romeva, Jordi Turull and Dolors Bassa were convicted of the same charges and handed 12-year sentences.

Former speaker of the Catalan regional parliament, Carme Forcadell was given a sentence of 11 years and six months; ex-ministers Joaquim Forn and Josep Rull, 10 years and six months each; and pro-separatist grassroots organisers, Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart, nine years each.

Three former ministers, Santiago Vila, Meritxell Borràs and Carles Mundó, were only given fines and barred from holding office for one year and eight months. The charge of rebellion was dismissed by judges against all the accused.