Spain’s Supreme Court has sentenced nine Catalan separatist leaders to between nine and 13 years in prison for sedition over their role in an independence referendum in 2017.
Three other defendants were found guilty of disobedience and fined, but will not serve prison sentences.
The 12 politicians and activists had all denied the charges.
Separatists in Catalonia were planning mass civil disobedience ahead of the verdict.
Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan president who escaped trial after fleeing Spain before he could be arrested in 2017, said the sentences handed to separatist leaders of “100 years in total” were “an atrocity”.
“Now more than ever… it is time to react like never before,” he wrote on Twitter, adding: “For the future of our sons and daughters. For democracy. For Europe. For Catalonia.”
The prosecution had sought up to 25 years in prison for Oriol Junqueras, the former vice-president of Catalonia and the highest-ranking pro-independence leader on trial.
Junqueras was handed the longest sentence of 13 years for sedition and misuse of public funds.
The other sentences ranged from nine years upwards.
The nine leaders were acquitted of a more serious charge of rebellion.
Following the court’s verdict, Catalan independence supporters marched in Barcelona displaying banners that read “free political prisoners” while urging others to “take to the streets”.
Over the weekend, hundreds of protesters rallied in the city.
In 2017, police and protesters clashed in the streets when Catalonia’s pro-independence leaders went ahead with a referendum ruled illegal by Spain’s constitutional court.
Monday’s ruling comes after four months of hearings.
During their closing arguments in June, defence lawyers told the court their clients denied the charges of rebellion and sedition, but admitted to the lesser charge of disobedience, which could have seen them banned from public office but avoiding prison.Bengbenronews