Amnesty International has released a report criticising the verdict of the nine Catalan referendum leaders, sentenced to between 9 and 13 years in prison on 14 October by Spain’s Supreme Court, and again called for the immediate release of Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, the two civic leaders at the time of the October 2017 referendum.
‘The conviction of Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart for sedition violates their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and they must be immediately released,’ Amnesty International states in its report.
The non-governmental organisation had already been asking for their release during their two-year provisional detention before they were given their sentence.
Amnesty International monitored the proceedings against 12 Catalan leaders in relation to the events that took place in Catalonia around the referendum on 1 October 2017, including by attending all the sessions of the trial held in Madrid.
Nine politicians and activists were convicted to between 9 and 13 years in jail for their role in the 2017 Catalan independence push.
In Amnesty’s report published on Tuesday, it states that ‘the jail terms handed down to the two civil society leaders and to seven other senior Catalan officials resulted from the vague definition of the crime of sedition in Spain’s Criminal Code, and an overly broad and dangerous interpretation of this definition by the Supreme Court.’
‘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 criminalizing legitimate acts of protest,’ he added.
Amnesty claim that as private citizens and leaders of civil society organisations, [the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Omnium Cultural] both 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’.
In its report, Amnesty International expressed further concern that ‘the Court [has] opened the door to the possibility for the authorities to impose an unlawful cap on the amount of people that can simultaneously exercise their right to protest peacefully.’
‘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 organisation claims.
‘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.
‘Everyone has the right to know if their conduct may constitute a crime. But this ruling demonstrates that the vague nature of the definition of the crime of sedition allows it to be used excessively. The interpretation of this crime by the Supreme Court could have a chilling effect that could prevent people from participating in peaceful protests without fear.’
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