SPAIN’s Constitutional Court is to consider the appeals of seven of Catalonia’s nine pro-independence leaders convicted for their part in the 2017 indref – the last stage before the cases move to the European Court of Human Rights.

Most of the politicians and civic leaders were jailed for between nine and 13 years, and judges will examine the sentences passed on civic heads Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, former speaker of the Catalan parliament Carme Forcadell, and ex-ministers Dolors Bassa, Quim Forn, Josep Rull and Jordi Turull, as well as two others who were not imprisoned, Carles Mundo and Meritxell Borras.

Oriol Junqueras, the former vice-president, and former minister Raul Romeva lodged similar appeals, but theirs will be dealt with later because both have demanded the 12 Constitutional Court judges be recused.

The indy figures have all indicated they want to take their sentences to the human rights court, but to do so they must exhaust every domestic means of challenging them. This is Spain’s last chance to settle the matter before the European court.

It came as Amnesty International issued a report arguing that Sanchez and Cuixart should be released immediately, and continued its criticism of the ambiguity of the crime of sedition in Spain’s penal code.

The NGO said the definition and interpretation of sedition were contrary to the principle of legality, and disproportionately restricted their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Esteban Beltran, Amnesty’s director in Spain, said: “The definition of the criminal type of sedition must be substantially revised to ensure that it does not unduly criminalise the exercise of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, nor does it impose disproportionate penalties on acts of peaceful civil disobedience.”

Amnesty said it was also concerned that in its ruling, the Supreme Court linked the gravity of the offence to the claim that opposition to compliance with a court order was “massive or widespread”.

This, it said, opened the door to the potential for authorities to impose an illegitimate limit on the number of people who can simultaneously exercise their right to protest peacefully.

This could have the effect of preventing citizens taking part, without fear, in any peaceful protests.

Amnesty said international human rights law protected peaceful civil disobedience and said restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly must be provided for in law and be proportionate to a specific public interest.

The human rights body added: “It is the criminalisation of a wide range of actions closely linked to the exercising of the freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful assembly, as well as civil disobedience or obstructive protest.”