The constitutional court of Spain has agreed to consider appeals filed by the leaders of Catalonia’s 2017 independence referendum, who received harsh prison sentences after being found guilty of sedition.
The convicted leaders, many of whom are serving more than a decade behind bars, had petitioned the court to have their sentences suspended. The court rejected that motion, but said Wednesday that it would consider appeals filed by seven of those convicted of sedition and from two other leaders charged with lesser crimes.
In October 2019, Spain’s Supreme Court handed down jail terms of between nine and 13 years to the Catalan officials behind the independence referendum. The vote was itself ruled unconstitutional and void by Spanish courts.
The leaders, including high-ranking officials such as former Catalan Deputy Premier Oriol Junqueras, were subsequently found guilty on various charges, including sedition and misuse of public funds in organizing the plebiscite. Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan president who spearheaded the movement, evaded Spanish authorities and currently lives in exile in Belgium.
Spain’s crackdown on the referendum and its supporters sparked accusations of human rights abuses and double standards, while the EU was also criticized for claiming that the political conflict was an internal matter.
Criticism of Madrid’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has reinvigorated Catalan’s independence movement, with the regional government claiming that it has been able to respond better to the crisis than the rest of the country.
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