Amnesty International calls on Spain to release jailed Catalan leaders

AMNESTY International has called for Spain to immediately release of jailed Catalan leaders Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart. 

The human rights organisation days its analysis of the judgement that found them guilty of sedition shows the term is too vague for a just decision to have been made, especially as lengthy prison sentences were handed out. 

It also says that the Spanish Supreme Court made an “overly broad and dangerous interpretation of the term. 

“Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart must be released immediately and their convictions on the charge of sedition must be quashed,” said Daniel Joloy, Senior Policy Advisor at Amnesty International. 

“Whilst our analysis did not find any factors suggesting that the trial as a whole was unfair, it is clear that the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the crime of sedition was overly broad and resulted in criminalising legitimate acts of protest.” 

In a statement Amnesty international said: “As private citizens and leaders of civil society organisations, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart had a right to express their opinions and to organise peaceful meetings to support the referendum and the independence of Catalonia. 

Even if the purpose of any of these meetings or their actions was to prevent the enforcement of a judicial resolution, peaceful civil disobedience is also protected under international human rights law. Bringing overly-harsh charges to acts of civil disobedience unduly restricts the right to peaceful assembly and breaches international law. 

Having monitored the whole trial, Amnesty International criticised the nine-year sentences handed down. 

Amnesty Spain’s Director, Esteban Beltran said : “The sentences given to Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart clearly constitute an excessive and disproportionate restriction on their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. 

Parliament must urgently revise the definition of the crime of sedition to avoid criminalising peaceful acts of civil disobedience or unduly restricting freedom of peaceful assembly or expression.” 

Amnesty International says that “the lack of clarity around the crime of sedition in the Criminal Code as interpreted by the Court is allowing the imposition of undue restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. As a result, a wide range of non-violent direct actions are being wrongfully criminalised. 

The vagueness of the definition of sedition and its overly-broad interpretation also brings into question the convictions for sedition imposed on the Catalan political leaders. 

“Whilst the Catalan political leaders might have committed an offence that could have been legitimately prosecuted given their official positions, their conviction for sedition – a crime that is too vaguely defined – is in breach of the principle of legality. The authorities must urgently provide an adequate remedy to this situation,” said Adriana Ribas, Amnesty International coordinator in Catalonia. 

The sentences were handed down on 14 October. Seven senior Catalan officials, as well as two leaders of civil society organisations, were sentenced to terms of between nine and 13 years in prison and disqualification from holding public office for the crime of sedition. Three other senior officials were convicted of the crime of disobedience and sentenced to a fine and disqualification from holding public office. 

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Dilip Kuner

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