By Nuri Aydın
MADRID, Spain (AA) – At least 37 protesters were injured Monday in clashes with police at Barcelona’s airport after Spain’s Supreme Court sentenced nine separatists to prison for illegally promoting Catalan independence, according to local authorities.
Twelve Catalan separatist leaders were charged with crimes including sedition, disobedience and the misuse of public funds, the court announced earlier in the day.
Of the 12, seven politicians and two activists will serve between nine and 13 years for their roles in the failed attempt to declare independence from Spain two years ago.
Protestors have taken to the streets throughout the region of Catalonia, with some of the largest protests occurring in the cities of Barcelona, Girona and Tarragona. Protesters have cut traffic, including on one highway.
In October 2017, the Catalan government organized a referendum on independence, which was illegal under Spanish law. Despite a police crackdown on the referendum, organizers reported that 43% of residents cast their ballots, with 90% of voters opting for independence.
In the ensuing weeks, the Catalan government made a vague independence declaration, but Spanish authorities soon after suspended home rule and arrested the movement’s leaders. However, several leaders, including former Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont, managed to flee Spain and avoid detention.
Today’s prison sentences were handed out to those who stayed in Spain. The longest prison sentence, 13 years, was imposed on Oriol Junqueras, the former vice-premier in the region. He was charged with sedition and the misuse of funds.
Former Catalan foreign minister Raul Romeva, former government spokesperson Jordi Turull and Dolors Bassa, the former labor minister, were all sentenced to 12 years behind bars. Carme Forcadell, the former speaker of the Catalan Parliament, received an 11-and-a-half-year sentence. Joaquim Forn, the former interior minister, and Josep Rull, former territorial minister, were charged with sedition and sentenced to 10-and-a-half years.
Two Catalan activists who led separatist organizations but were not active politicians at the time -- Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart -- were both sentenced to nine years for sedition.
All of the leaders will also be suspended from holding public office as long as their prison sentences last.
Three other former government officials were charged with disobedience and handed fines of approximately €60,000 ($66,180).
The nine leaders who got the heaviest prison sentences had also been accused of rebellion, which carries a prison sentence of up to 25 years. Those charges were dropped, according to the Supreme Court, because the leaders did not directly call for "enough" violence.
*Writing by Zehra Nur Duz