Catalan secessionists cleared of rebellion charges but lengthy sentences dished out for sedition

Oriol Junqueras, former Catalan vice-president sentenced to 13 years in prison
Oriol Junqueras, former Catalan vice-president sentenced to 13 years in prison / SUR
  • The leaders of 2017's illegal independence referendum get just under 100 years for sedition, with Oriol Junqueras handed the longest sentence at 13 years

The Spanish Supreme Court has handed out custodial sentences to nine of the twelve Catalan independence leaders on trial for their role in the illegal October 2017 referendum. Those given prison time have also been barred from holding public office for the same length of time.

The longest sentence, 13 years for sedition and embezzlement, was handed to former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras, whom the verdict named the "recognised 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 president of the Catalan 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 grassroots independence agitators Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart nine years each. The remaining 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 key question in advance of the sentencing was whether those standing trial would be convicted of the more serious crime of rebellion, which can carry a sentence of 25 years. The judges believed that rebellion would not have been an appropriate sentence, because while violence did occur during the referendum and its aftermath, they did not see it as a deliberate, top-down strategy to secure independence.

Notably, the court did also make clear its belief that the "right to decide" - in other words, the right for any of Spain's autonomous regions to unilaterally secede - was unconstitutional, stating that "there is no democracy without the rule of law".