Spain’s Supreme Court on Monday jailed nine Catalan separatists with sentences ranging from 9-13 years imprisonment for the crimes of sedition and misuse of public funds. These sentences are each followed by equal periods of absolute ineligibility for public office. Three others were fined and charged with civil disobedience.
The court did not find the crime of rebellion here because, while violence occurred during the separatist movement, the violence must have been meant to achieve secession rather than to bring about negotiations with the government. The court found that the defendants “promoted a referendum that lacked proper democratic safeguards.” For rebellion to be found, “the danger must be real.” However, throughout the movement, the State remained in control of the military and police in the area, making “any bid for independence a mere pipe-dream.” The defendants even admitted that the goal of their movement was to have negotiations with the government, not to achieve secession.
On the offense of sedition, the court found that advocacy for a change in the Constitution is not a criminal act but that it is indeed an offense to “lead the citizenry in a public and tumultuous uprising.”
The court noted that no international treaty has included a “right to decide” as was desired here. Additionally, many European countries have some provision in their constitution preserving the interest in an indivisible state; Spain’s protection of its unity is not “some extravagance.”
On the offense of civil disobedience, the court found despite the value of “public expression of dissent” due to of the government’s need to preserve the legitimacy of the courts and to safeguard those who may benefit from a court’s decision. The right to assemble stands, but this was a “riotous uprising.”
Misuse of funds came from an expenditure marked for the holding of the referendum in Catalonia, all of those defendants signed for responsibility on the expenditure.
The decision has sparked protests in the region, with crowds causing flights to be canceled by blocking the airport and blocking major roads. It was reported that thousands “clashed with police” at the airport, who had to hold the protesters back with batons and rubber bullets.