Former Catalan President Artur Mas has been banned from holding office for a two-year period for organizing an independence referendum in 2014.
The Catalan High Court made the ruling on Monday after convicting Mas of civil disobedience for holding the symbolic, non-binding vote in the wealthy region in November 2014, which was deemed illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court.
Two other former officials from his administration were also found guilty by the court and barred from public office for 18 and 21 months each.
During a trial last month, some 40,000 people gathered outside the Superior Court of Catalonia, chanting independence slogans and waving separatist red, yellow and blue flags.
Mas, who was found guilty of defying the constitutional court by pressing ahead with the breakaway referendum vote, argued, “There was no intent to commit any crime or disobey anyone,” adding that, “Our aim was to rise to the challenge and promote participation by all possible means.”
The 61-year-old governed Catalonia from 2010 to 2016.
People hold Catalan pro-independence flags outside the TSJC (Superior Court of Catalonia) in Barcelona on February 6, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
In the November 2014 poll, more than 80 percent of the 2.3 million people who cast ballots backed independence for Catalonia, according to Catalan officials.
Catalonia is a rich and highly-industrialized region in northeast Spain with its own language and customs and has long been calling for outright independence from Spain.
The Catalan people believe Madrid’s unfair distribution of the region’s abundant wealth has been to their detriment.