CATALONIA’s independence leaders were defiant last night after being sentenced to a total of almost 100 years in prison over the 2017 referendum.

Nine of the 12 – who have been in preventative detention for up to two years – had been tried for rebellion but Spanish Supreme Court judges led by Manuel Marchena withdrew that charge and convicted them of sedition and embezzling public funds.

Oriol Junqueras was handed the most severe sentence of 13 years imprisonment and barred for a similar period from holding public office.

However, he pledged to “come back stronger, firmer and more committed than ever”, and urged people to “keep going, because we always will”.

Raul Romeva, the former foreign minister, was jailed and disqualified for 12 years and accused Spanish authorities of wanting to convict “a whole movement” and using the convictions “to eternalise political problems”.

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Having just been handed an 11-and-a-half-year jail term, Carme Forcadell, who was the Catalan Parliament speaker at the time of the indyref, and allowed a vote on the poll, tweeted: “Injustice has been served. Free parliamentary debate is not a crime.”

Ex-ministers Raul Romeva, Jordi Turull and Dolors Bassa, were jailed for 12 years. Turull said: “Long live free Catalonia,” while Josep Rull, another ex-minister, said they had been convicted for their ideas: “If they had judged the events, we would have been acquitted.

“As they have put our ideas on trial, they have convicted us.”

The former interior minister, Joaquim Forn, voiced his thanks to the Catalan people after he and Rull were jailed for 10 and a half years.

The National:

“Thanks for your support. We’re grateful because we know you’re always there. We won’t give up,” said Forn.

Pro-indy grassroots activist Jordi Cuixart got nine years but was unrepentant: “The response to the sentence, do it again.

“We will do it again. Amnesty, democracy and self-determination.”

The other convicted activist-leader-turned-politician, Jordi Sanchez, said simply: “Injustice. Nine years in jail won’t defeat my optimism. Catalonia will be independent if we persist.’’

READ MORE: 100 years of jail time for pro-independence Catalan leaders

Three other officials – Carles Mundo, Santi Vila and Meritxell Borras – were fined €60,000 each for the crime of disobedience.

The first demonstrations against the sentences came shortly after they were revealed. Thousands of people swarmed into Barcelona’s El Prat airport under the Democratic Tsunami umbrella, but they were beaten back as Spanish National Police officers lashed out with riot batons.

Other airports, along with a major train station in Girona, came to a standstill as demonstators blocked the rail lines.