The key figures in the push for Catalan independence

As supreme court hands down verdicts in trial of 12 separatist leaders, we look at some of the main players

Spain’s supreme court has announced its verdict in the trial of 12 Catalan separatist leaders over their alleged roles in the region’s failed attempt for independence two years ago. Here are some of the key figures in the push for independence:

The former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras
The former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras. Photograph: Paul White/AP

Oriol Junqueras

The former Catalan vice-president and leader of the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) party was convicted of sedition and misuse of public funds on Monday and sentenced to 13 years in prison. He was also banned from holding public office for 13 years. He had been in pre-trial custody since November 2017.

Junqueras, 49, was a history professor before going into politics and eventually rising to the top of the ERC in 2011.

Since entering prison, he has taken a more considered approach to the path towards independence than the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, mirroring the growing divisions between the two main pro-independence Catalan parties.

“You need to have the courage to speak clearly if you’re going to move ahead,” he told Catalan TV last September. “You have to admit where we are and where we’d like to be. You have to start building again from there and learning from the mistakes that have been made.”

Junqueras has also alluded on more than one occasion to his decision to remain in Catalonia while his former boss fled into self-imposed exile in Belgium.

“I stayed in Catalonia because of the sense of responsibility I feel towards my fellow citizens,” he said in a recent interview with Le Figaro. “Socrates, Seneca and Cicero had the opportunity to flee but didn’t take it. I find that civic and ethical responsibility very impressive.”

Jordi Cuixart (L) and Jordi Sanchez.
Jordi Cuixart (left) and Jordi Sànchez. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, AKA ‘Los Jordis’

Sànchez, a regional MP and former president of the influential grassroots Catalan National Assembly (ANC), and Cuixart, the leader of the Òmnium Cultural civil society group, were found guilty of sedition and given nine-year sentences on Monday.

Arrested in October 2017 as part of an investigation into alleged sedition in the run-up to the independence referendum a fortnight earlier, they are the Catalan leaders who spent the most time in pre-trial detention.

Sànchez, 54, and Cuixart, 43, were accused of using huge demonstrations to try to stop Spanish police officers from following a judge’s orders to halt the referendum, which had already been suspended by the country’s constitutional court.

Amnesty International has described the charges against them as unjustified. “Although calling protests to obstruct legitimate police operations can – if proof is produced of their commission – constitute a public order offence, it does not constitute a serious crime such as sedition or rebellion,” Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty’s Europe director, said in February last year.

Carles Puigdemont.
Carles Puigdemont. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Carles Puigdemont

Notably absent from the trial was Puigdemont, the architect of the region’s failed independence bid.

He fled Catalonia for Belgium days after the unilateral declaration of independence. He is currently attempting to lead a government in exile – or “council of the republic” – from his new home in the Belgian municipality of Waterloo.

A Spanish judge dropped an international arrest warrant issued for Puigdemont, 56, after a German court said it would only extradite him over alleged misuse of public funds rather than the more serious charge of rebellion.

He faces immediate arrest on charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds should he return to Spain.

A staunch and longstanding independence campaigner, Puigdemont served as Catalan president from January 2016 to October 2017, when he was sacked by the Spanish government for his independence bid.

He studied Catalan philology at university before becoming a journalist on the Girona-based daily El Punt and helping to launch Catalonia Today, an English-language paper.


Sam Jones in Madrid

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Catalan vice-president says independence is only remaining option
Oriol Junqueras says Spanish decision to impose direct rule leaves region with little choice but to declare a sovereign state

Sam Jones in Barcelona

26, Oct, 2017 @8:26 AM

Article image
Spanish government set to pardon nine Catalan independence leaders
Prime minister says controversial decision opposed by many Spaniards will ‘open path to reconciliation’

Sam Jones in Madrid

22, Jun, 2021 @4:00 AM

Article image
Catalan leader calls for mediation with Spain over independence
Carles Puigdemont says commission ‘cannot look the other way’ after almost 900 were injured in referendum crackdown

Sam Jones and Stephen Burgen in Barcelona

02, Oct, 2017 @1:26 PM

Article image
Spain poised to strip Catalan government of powers over independence push
Senate in Madrid set to vote on imposing direct rule after Catalan government refuses to abandon drive for independence

Sam Jones, Emma Graham-Harrison and Stephen Burgen in Barcelona

27, Oct, 2017 @6:28 AM

Article image
Catalan government suspends declaration of independence
President Carles Puigdemont says he will pursue negotiations with Spanish government in hope of resolving conflict

Sam Jones in Barcelona

10, Oct, 2017 @6:10 PM

Article image
Puigdemont speech gives no clarity on Catalan independence
Catalonia’s president has called to ‘suspend effects of independence declaration’ – potentially upsetting both sides of debate

Giles Tremlett

10, Oct, 2017 @8:58 PM

Article image
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont ignores Madrid's ultimatum
Puigdemont refuses to clarify whether he has actually declared independence and reiterates his call for talks

Sam Jones in Madrid

16, Oct, 2017 @8:25 AM

Article image
Spanish court blocks Catalan parliament from declaring independence
Constitutional court suspends Monday session, ruling that allowing possible declaration would violate MPs’ rights

Sam Jones in Barcelona

06, Oct, 2017 @6:27 AM

Article image
Catalan parliament needs Puigdemont, says speaker
Roger Torrent urges end to direct Madrid rule but calls for dialogue over political crisis

Sam Jones in Madrid

09, Feb, 2018 @2:06 PM

Article image
Catalan leader accuses Spanish government of Franco-style crackdown
Carles Puigdemont says flooding region with police to stop looming referendum is a massive, undemocratic overreaction

Sam Jones in Barcelona

22, Sep, 2017 @4:34 PM