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GUILTY: Catalan leaders handed jail terms for sedition over failed independence bid

Spain's Supreme Court on Monday sentenced nine Catalan leaders to prison terms ranging from nine to 13 years for sedition and misuse of public funds for their role in a failed 2017 independence bid.

GUILTY: Catalan leaders handed jail terms for sedition over failed independence bid
In this file photo taken on February 12, 2019 Former Catalan separatist leaders including (from front row R-L) Oriol Junqueras, Raul Romeva, Joaquim Forn, Jordi Sanchez, Jordi Turull, Josep Rull, Jord

The sentences were lower than demanded by the prosecution which had sought up to 25 years behind bars for former Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras.    

“The Supreme Court has condemned Oriel Junqueras to 13 years of prison… on grounds of sedition and the misuse of public funds,” the ruling said, handing 12 years to three other former regional ministers.

Tension has been mounting steadily ahead of the ruling with police sending reinforcements to Catalonia where separatists have pledged a mass response of civil disobedience, calling for rallies, roadblocks and a general strike.

The 12 defendants, most of them members of the former Catalan government, were on trial for their role in the banned October 1st referendum and the short-lived independence declaration that followed it.

“The Supreme Court condemns Oriel Junqueras to 13 years of prison… on grounds of sedition and the misuse of public funds,” the ruling said, handing 12 years to three other former regional ministers.

Former parliamentary speaker Carme Forcadell was handed 11 years and six months in jail, while two influential Catalan civic leaders, Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, were sentenced to nine years prison.

Only three of the 12 leaders, who faced lesser charges, escaped jail time and were handed a fine.

Junqueras served as the main defendant after his boss, Puigdemont, fled to Belgium.

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This combination of file pictures created on October 26, 2018 shows jailed Catalan separatist leaders (TOP L-R) Raul Romeva, Joaquim Forn, Jordi Turull, Oriol Junqueras, Josep Rull (BOTTOM L-R) Jordi Cuixart, Carme Forcadell, Dolors Bassa and Jordi Sanchez. AFP

Following a high-profile trial which ended in June, judges at Spain's highest court issued their decision on charges ranging from rebellion and sedition to disobedience and misappropriation of funds.   

Former Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras is the main defendant after his boss, Carles Puigdemont, fled to Belgium to avoid prosecution.   

The government is hoping the long-awaited ruling will allow it to turn the page on the crisis in this wealthy northeastern region where support for independence has been gaining momentum over the past decade.

But the separatist movement is hoping for just the opposite: that the anticipated guilty verdicts will unite their divided ranks and bring supporters onto the streets.

Activists gear up to protest

Activists from the region's two biggest grassroots pro-independence groups, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Omnium Cultural, have urged followers to rally on the evening of the verdict.

And in the following days, demonstrators will march from five towns towards Barcelona where they will congregate on Friday, when a general strike has been called.

Activists from the radical CDR (Committees for the Defence of the Republic), have also promised “surprises”. On Sunday they briefly occupied the main train station in Barcelona before cutting traffic on a main avenue of the
city.   

Anti-riot police have been discreetly deployed to Catalonia, but the interior ministry has refused to give numbers.

For many, the situation has brought back memories of tensions in the street in the run-up to the October 1st referendum which was marred by police violence, and ahead of the short-lived independence declaration of October 27th.

In recent weeks, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has made it clear that his government will not tolerate any violence, warning he will not hesitate to renew a suspension of Catalan autonomy as happened two years ago.

The situation is worrying the main Catalan business lobby which said although the verdict would have a “significant emotional impact”, it was important the response avoided disrupting “business activity or social
cohesion”.

Sedition not rebellion 

The court is widely reported in the media to have chosen to sentence them for sedition and not rebellion, which carries a far heavier sentence.    

By definition, rebellion is “rising up in a violent and public manner” to, among other things, “declare independence for part of the (Spanish) territory”.   

Sedition, however, is “rising up publicly and in turbulent fashion” to “prevent by force or in an illegal way” the law from being applied, or the application of an administrative or legal decision.

The trial comes just weeks before Spain heads to the polls for its fourth election in as many years, putting the Catalan question once more at the centre of the political debate.

Although Sanchez's government is hoping the trial's end might give fresh impetus to dialogue, Junqueras' leftwing ERC party has said it would not be possible without an “amnesty” for “political prisoners and those in exile”.

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14 Barcelona life hacks that will make you feel like a local

Barcelona is a popular city for foreign residents in Spain thanks to its coastal location, many international companies and great lifestyle. However, navigating life here can take some getting used to, so here are our top Barcelona life hacks to help make things easier for you.

14 Barcelona life hacks that will make you feel like a local
Barcelona life hacks. Image: Michal Jarmoluk / Pixabay

Invest in a good water filter

Barcelona tap water doesn’t taste the best, particularly in the areas around the Old Town such as El Born, the Gothic Quarter, Barceloneta and Raval. The water is also very hard, meaning that it leaves limescale on appliances such as your kettle.

Using a good water filter can improve the taste and make sure that limescale doesn’t build up. It’s also much more economical and healthier than buying bottled water every time you want a drink.

Use the Rodalies trains to get across the city faster

Many people when they first move to Barcelona just use the metro and don’t bother using the Rodalies trains. While it’s not always necessary, for certain journeys it can make getting across the city much faster.

For example, if you need to get from Sant Andreu or Clot to Sants to connect to one of the intercity trains, it’s only two or three stops on the Rodalies, as opposed to more than 10 on the metro, as well as changing to different lines.

Don’t try and get anything important done in August

This is probably true of most of Spain, but if you need to get anything important done, whether official paperwork or renovations on your apartment, don’t try and get them done in August.

The whole city goes on holiday for the month of August, including office personnel, builders and handypeople. If you need to get any of this done, it’s best to get it done before the holidays or to wait until September.  

Don’t buy drinks from sellers on the beach or in the park

You’ll find many people selling drinks on the city’s beaches and in the main Ciutadella Park. While it can be tempting to buy these, especially when it’s so hot, you need to be aware that these cans of drinks are often stored inside drains or under manhole covers, meaning that they’re not the cleanest.

A few years ago, El País took the mojitos sold by hawkers on the beaches to a local lab. The results came back a few days later to show that they contained high levels of fecal matter and bacteria in them.

Barcelona’s Chinese supermarkets are a great source of ingredients

Although you can now find many more foreign ingredients in local supermarkets than you could just a few years ago, there are still many that you may miss from back home, particularly South East Asian and Indian ingredients.

Barcelona has several excellent Chinese supermarkets, where you can find a range of ingredients, everything from sesame oil and Thai curry paste to Indian spices and affordable peanut butter.

Don’t take valuables out with you to certain areas, particularly at night

Unfortunately, bag snatchings and pickpockets are still commonplace in Barcelona. While the thieves mainly target tourists, foreign residents often find that they are targets too.

The trick is to blend in like a local, look like you know where you’re going and don’t take valuables with you to areas such as the Gothic Quarter, Raval or the Rambla, especially at night. Bag snatchings in El Born have also increased in recent years, so keep your wits about you around there too. 

Find your favourite beach outside of the city

Barcelona’s beaches may have been one of your prime reasons for moving here, but you’ll find that you actually prefer the beaches outside of the city.

Overcrowded, dangerous and a lot dirtier than other beaches in the area, the beaches in Barcelona are unfortunately not all that they’re cracked up to be. You’ll often find that after you’ve been for a swim, your valuables will not still be on the sand where you left them. Head just 15 to 20 minutes outside of the city however and you’ll find the beaches are far nicer and safer.

Find a beach outside of the city centre to go to. Photo: makunin /Pixabay

Try to join several different clubs or groups

Barcelona is a very transient city, meaning that people are moving here and leaving all the time. As a result, you’ll often find that most of the friends you made when first moving here have now moved away and you’ll constantly need to make more. If you join several clubs and groups, you’ll find that making new friends all the time is a lot easier. 

Don’t buy a single transport ticket

It’s never really worth buying a single transport ticket in Barcelona, because you’ll end up spending much more money per journey than you would if you bought the T-Casual (10 journeys) or the monthly T-Usual metro card instead.

You can also buy 10-journey bono tickets for the Rodalies trains, which will also save a lot of money if you’re making regular journeys out of the city. 

Try and avoid shopping at Port del Angel on Saturdays

Port del Angel is Barcelona’s main pedestrianised shopping street. While it’s great and has all the high-street fashion shops you want, it can be a nightmare shopping here on Saturdays.

If you do need to shop on a Saturday, try Rambla Catalunya or one of the shopping malls instead, which won’t be so crowded.

Be prepared for festivals and events

Barcelona holds so many festivals and events that it can be hard to keep up. In normal (non-Covid) years, there is one every other week.

Because of this tickets sell out quickly and there are many fun cultural events that you might miss out on. Keep your calendar up to date, so you know what’s going on, and make sure to book tickets for anything you want to see, well in advance. 

Tipping isn’t necessary at all bars and restaurants

Tipping isn’t all that common in Barcelona, unless perhaps if it’s a particularly nice restaurant or if there’s a large group of you that the waiter has had to look after.

You’ll find that it’s not expected either, except maybe at some of the city’s very touristy restaurants.  

READ ALSO: Why do Catalans have a reputation for being stingy?

Do lots of research before renting an apartment and if it sounds too good to be true, then it is

Unfortunately, there are lots of property scams in Barcelona, so try and do as much research as you can beforehand. Never pay money upfront before you’ve seen the property and received the keys.

Also, be aware that many landlords will not return your deposit at the end of your stay.

Many people get around this by not paying the last month’s rent, but this can also make things difficult for the good landlords who may genuinely need to deduct something for damages, so speak with your estate agency on the best thing to do in this situation.

READ ALSO: What you should know about renting an apartment in Barcelona

Hire a gestor or lawyer to help with immigration and tax issues

You’ll save yourself a lot of time and hassle with immigration and tax issues if you hire a professional to help you in Barcelona, where getting a cita previa (appointment) for official matters can often be difficult, in part because these law firms often bulk book them.

However, there are certain processes that you won’t need an immigration lawyer for such as getting a residency certificate if you’re from an EU country or exchanging your green residency certificate for a TIE if you are British and moved here before the end of 2020.

READ ALSO: BREXIT: How to apply for a TIE residency card in Spain

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