THE US government has warned Spain about its concerns over political prisoners in Catalonia and potential violations of human rights in the country.

Nine pro-independence activists are serving between nine and 13 years after being convicted of sedition over their part in the 2017 indyref, and while the US State Department offers no real judgement, it highlighted several of their cases.

It cited an Amnesty International report denouncing the Supreme Court’s interpretation of sedition as “excessively broad” and warned against criminalising “acts of protest”.

The report is also critical of the “arbitrary and prolonged” arrests of grassroots leaders Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart in the wider context of a UN call for the Spanish government to fulfil their legal obligations “to protect the human rights of minorities, including the Catalan minority, especially regarding freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association and participation in the public life”.

It came after Cuixart’s case was included in a Council of Europe (CoE) rapporteur’s paper detailing the most troubling in the CoE’s 47 member states.

General rapporteur Alexandra Louis said the president of Omnium Cultural was the only defender of human rights to be jailed by a member state of the European Union.

She said: “The Supreme Court sentenced 12 Catalan activists, political and social leaders to nine years in prison in the trial. According to his lawyers, the trial was of political nature.”

Louis included Cuixart’s circumstances with other cases alleging the intimidation of human rights defenders across the EU – in Poland, Italy, Cyprus and France. The rapporteur has already called for a review of Cuixart’s prison conditions.

Meanwhile, Spain’s solicitor general has presented a report to the Supreme Court as it considers whether a pardon for the nine “political prisoners” should be allowed.

The law officer represented the cabinet in the trial of the 2017 referendum leaders, but legal sources have indicated that this statement appeared not to take sides.

This was the only report still outstanding before the court rules on any pardons, but the public prosecutor has said they should not be released. Magistrates will issue a non-binding finding before a final decision is made by the Spanish government.

The path to a potential pardon has been a long one, after the government last September said it would consider the request within a week.

Spain’s justice minister Juan Carlos Campo said the cabinet would accept the request “for consideration”.

One stumbling block to an acquittal was the payment of a surely to offset the claimed civil liability costs of the indyref, which was set at €4.1 million (£3.49m).

It is understood that sum has now been paid.