In 2006 the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia was passed, defining the rights and obligations of the citizens and Government regarding relations with the rest of Spain, education, health, justice, environment, local government and giving it its own police force. This was deemed ‘unconstitutional’ in 2010 marking the start of the modern independence movement, and a large wedge between Catalonia and the rest of Spain for years to come.
This movement became so large that it fed upwards into the political climate, and although the movement never faded, it has recently made headlines again after the leaders (some of which were ex-presidents) were given decidedly length and controversial prison sentences. Two minister both were sentenced to 12 years, one 11 years and 6months and two for 10 and a half. This raises a series of interesting political and philosophical questions regarding sentencing and protests in Spain (and worldwide) today and it could be said to even mirror a very similar situation to what could have become of the UK leaving the EU.
Something which is of importance to note is the conviction which the leaders received was for ‘sedition’ which reflects the passive nature of the protests. Largely the protests took a political stance and revolved around referendums (which were deemed illegal by the Spanish government) which showed a 90% vote in favour of independence, however only a turnout of 43%. Whilst the referendum was an entirely speculative act, however what followed arguably marked the turning point, as the Parliament of Catalonia declared (October 2017) a Unilaterally independent republic meaning the independence is entirely one sided, as Spain not only didn’t agree upon it, but the Spanish Parliament’s lawyers deemed it entirely illegal. Therefore, although the Catalonian independence movement (CDRs) argue that there has been ‘no violence in their campaign’ the charge of ‘sedition’ has a number of connotations, thus making the sentence even more controversial. The oxford dictionary defines ‘sedition’ as a ‘violent party strife’ which is interesting as it entirely contrasts the ideas and actions of the Catalonian movement: not a fair trial. However, it can also be defined as ‘conduct or language inciting to rebellion’ which would be a fair statement in regard to the ‘crimes committed’.
This being said, the length of the sentences is arguably very intense given the nature of the crimes. The issue in question here is predominantly that of law and morality, is something which is immoral always illegal and vice versa? Furthermore, to what extent is something a protest before it becomes terrorism, something which is a common theme among protest movements such as the Extinction rebellion movement in the UK. The average sentence for a rapist is 9.8 years and many serve less than 5, for robbery in the first degree with a weapon the mandatory sentence is as low as 5 years. Therefore, the CDR leaders were given sentences higher than that of violent or abusive criminals. If the movement was violent and a threat to the Spanish constitution, these sentences could have been for terror and would have been viable, however the nature of the movement was protests and referendums. Despite this, the leaders did take it upon themselves to rearrange and alter the Spanish constitution considerably and therefore perhaps deserved sentences, the question is whether the length and severity of the sentences was fair in the grand scheme of the legal system, something which is consistently being considered daily world-wide.
Image Credit: Bloomberg