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Two of the world's leading business media, the British newspaper Financial Times and the US business giant Bloomberg have published an editorial and an opinion article, respectively, which both harshly criticise Spain for the heavy jail terms given to the nine Catalan pro-independence leaders and have stressed the need to find a political solution to the conflict.

The prestigious Financial Times dealt with the issue in an editorial, whose title gives a good idea of what's to come: "Prison sentences cannot solve Catalonia’s crisis." The newspaper asserts that "political reconciliation is needed in Spain" and notes that the "the most important trial since Spain's return to democracy in the late 1970s" took place in the middle of the political tension of the April general election and now the verdict has been announced a few weeks before the next election, on 10th November.

Although the FT considers that "there is little reason to believe that the trial in the Supreme Court was anything other than a fair process" the business paper makes the point that the judges recognize in their ruling that the independence push was aimed "putting pressure on the government to agree to a formal plebiscite," which, therefore,"makes it harder to justify the inordinately long sentences for the crime of sedition that the court handed down."

The newpaper takes it as given that the outcome of the case will be appealed in Spain's Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights and warns that the sentence may "radicalise secessionist opinion and amplify the Spanish nationalist backlash against it" before concluding that the best solution to the crisis is to aim at finding "engagement and conciliation with Catalan leaders". The FT notes that Socialist acting PM Pedro Sánchez has in the past "espoused" such an approach - but warns that it would be a danger if he was "deterred" from it, by a possible coalition with "fiercely anti-Catalan nationalist Ciudadanos."

Spain, like Eastern Europe

Meanwhile, the US business network Bloomberg has published a powerfully-argued opinion piece entitled "Catalans' Harsh Sentences Are Un-European", signed by Leonid Bershidsky, who affirms that after the verdicts, "judicial independence is not only a problem in Eastern Europe".

Taking a strongly critical line, the writer says that the verdicts "raise the question of whether Spain has a law and order problem that should bother the European Union the way Poland’s and Hungary’s infractions do," because "few other democracies would have sent people to prison for so long" for such a crime.

The heavy sentences are "distinctly un-European," says the Bloomberg article, reminding readers that the convicted Catalan leaders "did not resort to violence to achieve their goal" or "try to take control of the key institutions." The writer mentioned that in October 2017 he was personally present in Catalonia and confirms "the non-violent character of the secessionists’ actions".

The article concludes that "the EU can’t be expected to help Catalan separatists win independence from Spain," but that it is "Europe's responsibility to ensure that member states follow the rule of law" and as such "the Catalans' draconian sentences for non-violent political crimes are a painful reminder for the European Commission that shouldn't only look to eastward when it comes to upholding European values."