Spain jails 9 separatist leaders

 thedailystar.net  10/14/2019 18:00:00 

Thousands of angry protesters took to the streets of Barcelona yesterday after Spains Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan separatist leaders to between nine and 13 years in jail for sedition over the failed 2017 independence bid.

As the news broke, demonstrators turned out en masse, blocking streets in Barcelona and elsewhere as police braced for what activists said would be a mass response of civil disobedience.

The long-awaited ruling capped weeks of rising tension, and puts the Catalan question at the heart of the political debate less than a month before Spain heads into its fourth general election in as many years.

Ahead of the ruling, Barcelona had woken up to a heavy police presence, with forces noticeably visible around the regional high court, the main Sants train station and El Prat, Spains second busiest airport.

I feel very affected by the sentence even though I expected it. I feel fury and a sense of powerlessness, said Joan Guich, a 19-year-old maths student who was protesting on Gran Via.

They have been convicted for an ideology which I agree with.

The 12 defendants were put on trial in February for their role in the banned October 1, 2017 referendum and the short-lived independence declaration that followed it.

The harshest sentence of 13 years was handed to former Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras who served as the main defendant in absence of Carles Puigdemont, the regions leader who fled Spain to avoid prosecution.

In a tweet from Brussels, Puigdemont denounced the sentences as an outrage.

100 years in all. An outrage. Now more than ever, by your side and those of your families. It is time to react as never before, he wrote.

A Spanish judge yesterday issued a new international warrant for the arrest of Puigdemont who fled to Belgium.

Five other pro-independence leaders escaped with him and are variously living in Belgium, Switzerland and Scotland. Of the six, four were wanted for rebellion and two were wanted for misuse of public funds.

Of those that stayed in Spain, 12 were put on trial, with the Supreme Court convicting nine of them yesterday on the lesser charge of sedition.

Following the Supreme Court decision we need to turn the page based on peaceful co-existence in Catalonia through dialogue, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said, speaking in English.

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