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The Second Chamber of Spain's Supreme Court has lowered the sentences imposed by the High Court of Justice of Catalonia against former Catalan president Artur Mas and ministers Joana Ortega and Irene Rigau over the 2014 unofficial independence referendum. In the case of Mas, it's reduced his suspension from public office from two years to one year and one month, equivalent to the sentence the Supreme Court gave former Catalan presidency minister Francesc Homs in the same case.

Ortega sees twelve months removed from her sentence to a ban of one year and nine months; Rigau's sentence was reduced by the same amount, bringing it to six months. They are all convicted on charges of disobedience and only had appeals left over the sentences applied, not the convictions themselves. Prosecutors had called for the original sentences to be upheld.

Jaime Moreno, one of the prosecutors in the case, told the court in the hearing on 7th November that the events of four years ago were "a challenge to the law".

The case so far

On 9th November 2014, Catalonia held a "consultation" on independence, a precursor to last year's independence referendum for which politicians are also facing trial in Spanish courts.

The Supreme Court says they have confirmed the Catalan court's verdicts in all aspects, except "the specific duration of the bans from public office". Their exact arguments will be released shortly with the formal written judgement.

In March 2017, the High Court of Justice of Catalonia banned Mas, Ortega and Rigau from public office for different lengths of time. They were also fined 36,500€ (£33,000; $41,000), 30,000€ and 24,000€ respectively, amounts now confirmed by the Supreme Court. They were acquitted, however, of charges of malfeasance, and charges of misuse of public funds had been dismissed before they came to trial.

With today's announcement from the Supreme Court, these sentences are now final. It comes on the brink of the trial for the 2017 referendum, expected to get underway in January.

Second case still open

There is another case still open in Spain's Court of Auditors following the 2014 vote. On 12th November, they sentenced Mas, Ortega, Rigau, Homs and six others to a fine of 4,946,788.16€ for its organisation.

The court believes they bear fiscal responsibility for the events and that public money was used to pay for the vote. The fine is to be divided between them, although Artur Mas as former president is considered ultimately responsible and so will have to bear the brunt of whatever the others don't pay. They have all appealed the decision, appeals which the court should decide on in the coming weeks. Depending on that verdict, they could then turn to the Supreme Court.

Before the trial, they had to enter 5.2 million euros in security, of which 2.8 million in cash and the rest covered by property. The 2.8 million was paid for from the so-called "solidarity fund" opened for members of the public to support them.

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