Who are the 12 Catalan leaders facing years in prison?

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Who are the 12 Catalan leaders facing years in prison?

More than a year has passed since Catalonia’s regional parliament voted to declare independence from Spain following a contested referendum that saw Spanish police violently disperse Catalan voters.

Since then, pro-independence Catalan politicians and activists have been held in pre-trial detention on charges of rebellion, disobedience, and embezzlement of public funds for their alleged roles in the referendum and subsequent declaration of independence from Spain.

Others, such as former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, have fled Spain to avoid charges and lobby for Catalonia’s independence in the European Union.

Twelve defendants will stand trial before the Spanish Supreme Court on Tuesday for their alleged roles in the events leading to the October 2017 declaration.

The defendants face a combined total of roughly 200 years in prison if they are given maximum sentences.

According to court filings, their lawyers intend to claim the Catalan separatists are being prosecuted for their political beliefs, such as Catalan nationalism, and the act of voting.

The majority of the politicians to stand trial come from two political parties: the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) and the centrist Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCAT).

Leaders of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Omnium Cultural (OC) – two pro-independence civil society organisations – will also stand trial.

Oriol Junqueras

Oriol Junqueras, the former vice president, is the highest-ranking member of the former government to stand trial before the Spanish High Court. He faces charges of rebellion and embezzlement and is accused of understanding the “grave risk” of violence related to the referendum, but pushing forward anyway.

The Spanish Attorney General’s Office asked for the longest prison term for Junqueras [Javier Barbancho/Reuters]

Junqueras, a former history teacher, mayor, and member of the European Parliament still heads the ERC from prison, giving him considerable political sway in national Spanish politics.

Junqueras told Politico in an interview he will “only consider acquittal” and will not ask for a pardon if found guilty.

The Spanish Attorney General’s Office is asking for 25 years’ imprisonment, while the Solicitor General of Spain demanded 12 years.

Joaquim Forn

Joaquim Forn, the former Catalan minister of interior who oversaw carrying out the attorney general’s orders in Catalonia, is also charged with rebellion and embezzlement.

His indictment also states he understood the risk of violence related to the referendum but chose to go forward regardless.

Forn has a long political history in Barcelona, serving as a member of the city’s municipal council since 1999 and first deputy mayor from 2011 to 2015.

The Spanish Attorney General’s Office is asking for 16 years imprisonment, while the Solicitor General of Spain demanded 11 years.

Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart

The two Jordis are pro-independence civil society leaders – Sanchez of ANC and Cuixart of OC. The two men helped organised large pro-independence protests in the days before the October 1, 2017 referendum and are charged with sedition and rebellion.

They were originally accused of sedition by the attorney general in September, and the imprisonment of the two was ordered on October 16, 2017, by Spanish judge Carmen Lamela.

They faced accusations of encouraging violence against Spanish national police during the protests, but numerous media outlets have published a video of the two men climbing on top of a car to ask demonstrators to remain peaceful.

Rights groups, including Amnesty International, have asked for their release.

The Spanish Attorney General’s Office is asking for 17 years imprisonment for both, while the Solicitor General of Spain demanded eight years.

Carme Forcadell

Carme Forcadell, the former president of the Catalan parliament, was charged with rebellion and accused of voting for independence ahead of the declaration of independence. She was accused of “medullary” involvement as former president of ANC, a position she held from 2012 to 2015.

The Spanish Attorney General’s Office is asking for 17 years imprisonment, while the Solicitor General of Spain demanded 10 years.

Raul Romeva

Raul Romeva, a Catalan politician, former MEP, economist and analyst, was the head of foreign affairs under Puigdemont.

Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena accused Romeva of trying to create the “structures of a [Catalan] state” independent from Spain and of trying to promote the acceptance of a Catalan state in his role part of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Romeva told Reuters news agency the imprisoned “see the trial as an opportunity to address public opinion and society in Catalonia, Spain and obviously at an international level.”

The Catalan leaders are accused of crimes “we have not committed”, said Romeva, adding: “That is why the only possible sentence is [an] acquittal.”

The Spanish Attorney General’s Office is asking for 16 years imprisonment, while the Solicitor General of Spain demanded 11 years.

Dolors Bassa

Dolors Bassa is an educator and trade unionist who began her political career in 2007. She was elected to the parliament of Catalonia in 2015 and served as the counselor of labour, social affairs and families under Puigdemont.

Bassa was charged with rebellion and embezzlement for using her ministry to assume part of the costs related to the independence referendum.

The Spanish Attorney General’s Office is asking for 16 years imprisonment, while the Solicitor General of Spain demanded 11 years.

Carles Mundo

Carles Mundo, a lawyer, former counselor of justice under Puigdemont and ERC member was imprisoned along with Junqueras in November 2017 following the independence declaration. He was charged with embezzlement and disobedience.

He was released on bail in December 2017 after winning re-election in the regional vote called by the Spanish government. Mundo made a surprise announcement that he was leaving politics in January 2018, shortly after he was freed.

Both the Spanish Attorney General’s Office and the Solicitor General of Spain asked for 7 years. 

Jordi Turull

Jordi Turull, a lawyer and PDeCAT member whose political career began in 1987, had been a deputy in the Catalan parliament since 2004 when he was chosen as the counselor and spokesman of the presidency by Puigdemont in 2017.

He is charged with rebellion and embezzlement. 

Llarena accused Turull of propelling mobilisations in favour of the referendum and designing and managing the referendum’s advertising.

The Spanish Attorney General’s Office is asking for 16 years imprisonment, while the Solicitor General of Spain demanded 11 years.

Josep Rull

Rull, a PDeCAT member and parliamentarian for 20 years, was the counselor of Territory and Sustainability under Puigdemont. He was charged with rebellion and embezzlement.

Pro-independence demonstrators hold a poster of Rull outside of the prison that housed him in Catalonia [David Ramos/Getty Images]

Rull was accused of playing a “significant” role in the independence movement since 2015, as well as stopping Spanish national police from carrying out efforts to stop the independence referendum.

He has been in pre-trial detention since March 2018. The Spanish Attorney General’s Office is asking for 16 years imprisonment, while the Solicitor General of Spain demanded 11 years.

Meritxell Borras

Meritxell Borras is a prominent figure in Catalan politics. She has been active in local politics since 1995 and is the daughter of Jacint Borras, one of the founders of the defunct pro-independence Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC).

The centrist CDC was the foremost secessionist party until its members voted to dissolve and reform as the in 2016, partly due to its many corruption scandals. Many of its former members went on to join PDeCAT

Borras, who was the counselor of government and institutional relations under Puigdemont, has been charged with disobedience and embezzlement. Both the Spanish Attorney General’s Office and the Solicitor General of Spain have asked for seven years.

Santi Vila

Santi Vila was a long-time member of the CDC and subsequently PDeCAT. He was the counselor of business and culture at the time of the independence referendum and has been charged with embezzlement and disobedience in relation to his alleged involvement.

Vila paid a 50,000 euro ($57,000) bail in November 2017. He resigned from PDeCAT in June 2018. Both the Spanish Attorney General’s Office and the Solicitor General of Spain have asked for seven years.

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