Spain’s Supreme Court on Monday sentenced nine Catalan separatist leaders to prison terms of between nine and 13 years for their role in a failed 2017 independence bid.
The long-awaited verdicts were less than those demanded by the prosecution which had sought up to 25 years behind bars for former Catalan Vice President, Oriol Junqueras on grounds of rebellion.
Spain has been bracing for weeks for the court’s ruling, with tension mounting steadily and police sending reinforcements to Catalonia where separatists have pledged a mass response of civil disobedience.
Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium to avoid prosecution, denounced the sentences as an “outrage.”
“It is time to react,” he said. “for the future of our sons and daughters. For democracy. For Europe. For Catalonia.”
The longest prison term went to former Catalan deputy leader Oriol Junqueras, who was given 13 years.
Four of the leaders were convicted of misuse of public funds.
Separatist protests have been largely peaceful but police sources have said authorities are prepared for potential violence.
The government has said it is ready to take direct control of Catalonia, as it did briefly in 2017, if leaders of the movement break the law.
The ruling is likely to colour a national election on Nov. 10, Spain’s fourth in four years, scheduled for Nov. 10, and influence the direction taken by the separatist movement.
An opinion poll in July showed 48.3% of Catalans against secession and 44.0% in favour.