SPAIN’S Constitutional Court (TC) has rejected an appeal by two of the civic leaders jailed for their part in the 2017 independence referendum.

However, the move could backfire as it opens the door for Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez to take their cases to Europe.

Cuixart, president of Omnium Cultural and Sanchez – who led the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) – are serving nine-year prison terms after being convicted of sedition, and have served almost four.

Neither has been able to approach the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) until they exhausted all legal routes of appeal in Spain, but yesterday Cuixart wrote on Twitter: “Political courts are never surprising. We will continue to use the prison as a speaker of international denunciation: we are going to Strasbourg ... Freedom for Catalonia!”

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The court’s decision was not unanimous and magistrates Juan Antonio Xiol and Maria Luisa Balaguer voted against the convictions on the grounds that they violated “fundamental rights”, which had been claimed by both men. They had cast similar votes in the appeals of jailed Catalan ministers Jordi Turull and Josep Rull, which were also refused.

In October 2019, the Supreme Court convicted the nine-pro-indy leaders to between nine and 13 years in prison after finding them guilty of sedition and, in some cases, misuse of public funds.

Only two of those convicted are politicians – Cuixart and Sanchez, who is now secretary-general of Together for Catalonia (Junts), the political party created by former president Carles Puigdemont from his exile in Belgium.

Lawyer Jordi Pina, who acts for Turull and Rull, will present their appeals to the ECHR this month.

Spain’s courts are notoriously politicised and yesterday’s rulings will set the judiciary against the executive of Socialist prime minister Pedro Sanchez.

In recent days he has appeared relatively keen to pardon the jailed independence leaders, leading what is claimed to be the “most progressive executive in history”.