MADRID: Spanish prosecutors called Friday for Catalan separatist leaders to be jailed for up to 25 years on charges of rebellion or misuse of public funds over last year’s failed secession bid.
In a statement ahead of an upcoming Supreme Court trial, the prosecution service said it was seeking prison sentences against 12 Catalan leaders ranging from seven to 25 years, the latter jail term being sought for former Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras.
But in a sign Spain’s socialist government disagreed, the attorney general’s office announced it would ask for just 12 years jail for Junqueras, accusing him of sedition and misuse of public funds rather than the more serious charge of rebellion.
The sensitive trial is expected to start in early 2019 — more than a year after Catalan leaders attempted to break from Spain in October 2017 by staging a referendum despite a court ban and subsequently proclaiming independence.
Spain’s then conservative government moved swiftly to depose the Catalan executive, dissolve the regional parliament and call snap local elections in December.
Some Catalan leaders like deposed regional president Carles Puigdemont fled abroad, while others like Junqueras remained and were put into custody pending the trial.
Apart from Junqueras, prosecutors want two influential Catalan civic leaders, Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, and former regional parliamentary speaker Carme Forcadell jailed for 17 years.
In a separate case, they said they were also seeking four to 11 years jail against former regional police leaders including Catalonia’s then police chief Josep Lluis Trapero, whom they also accuse of rebellion.
In its statement, the prosecution service said pro-independence leaders planned to use all possible means to achieve secession, “including — knowing that the state wouldn’t accept this situation — any violence needed to secure this criminal result.”
It said separatist leaders had instigated “big citizen mobilizations” that represented an “intimidating force” and had also used the regional police force, with its 17,000 agents, which followed their orders.
The charge of rebellion has caused controversy in Spain, not just among those who support Catalan independence but further afield among legal experts.
According to Spanish law, rebellion is “rising up in a violent and public manner,” to among other things “breach, suspend or change the constitution” or “declare independence for part of the (Spanish) territory.”
Military officers behind a 1981 attempted coup in Spain were found guilty of rebellion, for instance.
But many legal experts contest the use of rebellion in the Catalan case, saying there was no violence during the secession bid, bar that waged by Spanish police on October 1, 2017 as they tried to stop people from voting in the banned referendum.