MADRID — The Spanish Supreme Court on Monday sentenced former leaders of the Catalan independence movement to lengthy prison terms after finding them guilty of sedition for their botched attempt to break away from Spain in 2017.
The former deputy leader of Catalonia, Oriol Junqueras, received the toughest sentence: 13 years in prison. Carles Puigdemont, the former leader of Catalonia, has been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium and has avoided prosecution in Spain.
The court verdicts followed a landmark trial in which 12 leaders of the Catalan independence movement stood accused of crimes ranging from rebellion and sedition to misuse of public funds.
The court sentenced nine of the 12 former leaders to prison for sedition, as well as for misusing public funds. The remaining three were sentenced for the lesser crime of disobedience during the events two years ago, which culminated in an unconstitutional referendum followed by a declaration of independence in October 2017.
The ruling came amid another buildup of tensions in Catalonia, the wealthy northeastern region where the Spanish authorities have recently deployed anti-riot police to prepare for any major street protests in response to the court’s decision.
It also came ahead of a repeat national election on Nov. 10, called after Pedro Sánchez, the caretaker Socialist prime minister, failed to get sufficient support from smaller parties in Parliament to form a government. It will be Spain’s fourth election in four years, highlighting the country’s political polarization and fragmentation.
The verdicts were handed down just before some of the defendants completed two years in jail, after being denied bail in October 2017.
While the seven judges of the Supreme Court found the Catalan leaders guilty of secession, they did not sentence them for rebellion, a crime that could have resulted in prison sentences of as many as 25 years.
The former Catalan leaders could still appeal their case before Spain’s Constitutional Court, if they could demonstrate that their fundamental rights had been violated, as well as to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
The verdicts also came as some former Catalan leaders have been awaiting a separate European ruling over whether they should be granted immunity as elected members of the European Parliament, after winning their seats in European elections last May.
Among those elected are Mr. Puigdemont and Mr. Junqueras, who is the leader of the Esquerra Republicana party that is now the largest Catalan force within the Spanish Parliament.