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Jailed Catalan separatist leader says new referendum unavoidable

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The Catalan separatist leader hit by the heaviest jail sentence by Spain’s Supreme Court for his role in the region’s failed secession bid told Reuters a new referendum on independence was unavoidable.

Oriol Junqueras, the Catalan regional government’s former deputy leader, said that the prison sentences imposed on him and eight others on charges of sedition only made them and their movement stronger and more determined.

The court on Monday slapped the longest prison term, 13 years, on Junqueras. The convictions sparked protests across the region.

“What I’m sure of is that this conflict is to be resolved via ballot boxes … we are convinced that sooner or later a referendum is inevitable because otherwise, how can we give a voice to the citizens?” he wrote from prison.

He added that he did not regret having organised a referendum in 2017.

In his first interview after the sentence, Junqueras said that he and others planned to appeal the sentences with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

“That we will carry on and not give up because we never have and won’t do it now. That prison and exile have made us stronger and makes us ever more convinced, if that is possible, in our profoundly democratic beliefs.”

All defendants were acquitted of the gravest charge, rebellion. Three other defendants were found guilty only of disobedience and not sentenced to prison.

“I’m sure this sentence will not weaken the independence movement, quite the contrary,” he said.

Catalonia’s independence drive has been a major challenge for Spain for years, attracting worldwide attention when separatist leaders defied courts and conducted a referendum on secession in October 2017 and a subsequent short-lived declaration of independence. (Reuters/NAN)


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Edited by Fatima Sule/Felix Ajide

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