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Pedro Sánchez on jailed Catalan separatists: “No one is above the law”

The caretaker prime minister has promised to uphold the Supreme Court ruling, which has divided Spain’s main political parties

Caretaker PM Pedro Sánchez responds to the Supreme Court ruling.
Caretaker PM Pedro Sánchez responds to the Supreme Court ruling. EFE
Barcelona / Madrid

Spain’s political leaders have both praised and criticized the Supreme Court ruling in the case against Catalan separatists, who were convicted and sentenced on Monday for their involvement in the 2017 breakaway bid.

Spain’s caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, of the Socialist Party (PSOE), welcomed the news, telling reporters: “Today brings an exemplary legal process to an end. Today confirms the failure of a political process, on an international level as well. It has only left pain in its wake.”

Today the good guys have won

Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera

Sánchez said the government would “fully comply” with the court’s decision, which sentenced nine Catalan separatist leaders to between nine and 13 years in prison after finding them guilty of sedition in connection with the unilateral breakaway attempt two years ago this month. “No one is above the law,” he added.

The Socialist leader said the verdict will usher in a “new stage,” and promised that “the Spanish government will remain alert and will guarantee social harmony and the respect for democratic legality.”

Pablo Casado, the leader of the opposition conservative Popular Party (PP), also praised the legal process as “exemplary.” “Political ideas have not been judged but rather serious violations of public order,” he said. Casado called on Sánchez to break all governing deals with pro-independence parties, and to promise not to offer amnesty or a government pardon to the convicted leaders.

Meanwhile, Albert Rivera from the center-right party Ciudadanos (Citizens) has asked Sánchez to hold a meeting with so-called “constitutionalist parties” – namely the PSOE, PP and Ciudadanos – to discuss the situation in Catalonia. “Now is the moment to come together, not to be divided,” he said. In response to the Supreme Court ruling, Rivera said: “Today, the good guys have won.”

Threats, prison and punishment are not going to solve anything

Catalan premier Quim Torra

But the verdict has not been so warmly welcomed by all political leaders. Pablo Iglesias, the leader of the anti-austerity party Unidas Podemos, said that the sentence “will go down in the history of Spain as a symbol of how not to address political conflicts in a democracy.” In a message on Facebook, Iglesias said he wanted to “send his support to the convicted leaders and to their families.” He added that while he was opposed to the independence movement, he was also against “discourses that look to criminalize Catalan men and women who peacefully protest against the sentences of their leaders.”

On the other side of the political spectrum, the general secretary of the far-right Vox party, Javier Ortega-Smith, has criticized the Supreme Court verdict for not finding the defendants guilty of the more serious crime of rebellion, which requires an element of violence and would have entailed jail terms of up to 25 years. “There were perfectly evident acts of violence,” he said.

Catalan premier: Ruling “unjust and undemocratic”

The regional premier of Catalonia, Quim Torra, has rejected the Supreme Court ruling as “unjust and undemocratic,” and demanded amnesty for the convicted leaders. “Threats, prison and punishment are not going to solve anything. This is the legacy of the dictatorship, not a sign of democracy,” he said at a press conference on Monday.

Catalan premier Quim Torra.
Catalan premier Quim Torra. AFP

The hardline separatist leader said he would send a letter to the caretaker prime minister and Spain’s King Felipe VI to call for an urgent meeting. Torra insisted the nine independent leaders always “acted peacefully,” adding: “Their sacrifice will not be in vain.”

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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