Lengthy jail sentences for Catalan separatist leaders

World | REUTERS 15 Oct 2019

Spain's Supreme Court yesterday sentenced nine separatist leaders from Catalonia to between nine and 13 years in prison for sedition over their role in a failed independence bid, triggering protests across the region.

Three other defendants, who were also on trial for their involvement in a referendum held in spite of a ban and a short-lived independence declaration, were found guilty only of disobedience and not sentenced to prison.

All defendants were acquitted of the gravest charge, rebellion, but leading separatists were quick to condemn the court's decision and the jailed men sent out messages of defiance, urging people to take to the streets.

"Nine years in prison won't end my optimism. Catalonia will be independent if we persist," said Jordi Sanchez, who was sentenced to nine years in jail. "Let us demonstrate without fear, let us move forward determinedly from non-violence to freedom."

Former head of Catalonia's regional government, Carles Puigdemont, said the prison sentences were an "atrocity".

The longest prison term - 13 years - went to the former deputy leader of the regional government, Oriol Junqueras.

In Barcelona, three main streets were blocked by protesters holding signs calling for "Freedom for political prisoners". Outside the pro-independence Omnium Cultural headquarters, a crowd chanted "We'll do it again" - a slogan used by supporters who want TO HOLD another referendum.

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