Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Seán Crowe TD, has stated his concern after the Supreme Court in Barcelona found the former President of Catalonia, Arthur Mas, guilty of disobeying the Spanish Constitutional Court by holding a non-binding referendum on independence in Catalonia in 2014, fining him €36,500 and banning him holding public office for two years.

Two former ministers, Joana Ortega and Irene Rigau, were also found guilty, fined €30,000 and €24,000, and banned from holding public office for 21 and 18 months respectively.

Deputy Crowe said:

“I have previously spoken out against the prosecution of these three politicians for helping to organise a non-binding vote on independence in 2014 in which over 2 million people voted.

“This vote took place because the Spanish Government refused to facilitate a democratic vote on Catalan independence. The impressive turnout during the poll sent a clear message that the Catalan people want a democratic, legal, and binding referendum to be held.

“I reiterate my belief that the prosecution of democratically elected politicians for holding popular polls and consultations undermines the democratic standards that many people hold dear throughout the world.

“The Spanish Government needs to resolve its disagreements with Catalan politicians, including on an independence referendum, through a process of mutual dialogue and respect. The prosecution of these respected politicians is counter-productive and the guilty verdicts will lead to greater tension.

“I understand the politicians will appeal the decision to the Spanish Supreme Court, and if necessary, go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

“The Spanish Government needs to recognise that it cannot ignore, ban or criminalise the democratic demands of a large section of people who are seeking alternative structures outside the current Spanish State. It should instead begin a process to facilitate the demand to hold a binding referendum on independence and allow the issue to be decided democratically.”