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Spanish high court sends 9 to prison for failed Catalan independence bid

By
Nicholas Sakelaris
Activists protest Monday in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, to oppose sentences given to nine Catalan separatists who supported efforts two years ago to secede from Spain. Photo by Enric Fotcuberta/EPA-EFE
Activists protest Monday in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, to oppose sentences given to nine Catalan separatists who supported efforts two years ago to secede from Spain. Photo by Enric Fotcuberta/EPA-EFE

Oct. 14 (UPI) -- The Spanish Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan separatists to several years in prison Monday stemming from government attempts to declare independence two years ago.

The nine were sentenced to between nine and 13 years, but the high court left open the possibility they will serve their time mostly only on weeknights. Prosecutors argued they should serve half their time before having such privileges.

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All nine were found guilty of sedition in their efforts to break Catalonia, an autonomous community in northeastern Spain, away and become its own state -- but none were convicted of rebellion, the most serious of the charges they faced. Three others were found guilty of disobedience but will not serve prison time.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court said the nine were involved in "undeniable" acts of violence in connection with Catalonia's efforts to declare independence from Spain, but none rose to the level of rebellion. The trial included testimony from more than 400 witnesses.

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Oriol Junqueras, leader of the Catalan Republican Left party, faces the greatest prison term, 13 years. After receiving his sentence, Junqueras said Catalan independence was "closer than ever."

Defense attorneys said they will appeal to the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights. Some of the defendants have called for a referendum for Catalan independence.

Six former government officials, including premier Carlos Puigdemont, have left the country and have not faced any charges in court related to their months-long attempts to secede from Spain.

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"A total of 100 years of prison. How horrible. Now more than ever, we will be with you and your families," Puigdemont tweeted Monday. "For the future of our sons and daughters. For democracy. For Europe. For Catalonia."

The Spanish Supreme Court is expected in the coming months to reactivate an international arrest warrant for Puigdemont and the other Catalan leaders who escaped prosecution.

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