A FORMER head of the UN Working Group (UNWG) on Arbitrary Detention has said he hopes the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg will condemn Spain over the Catalan political prisoners.

Mads Andenas, who is also a former United Nations rapporteur, said he expected the court to rule against Spain in a series of legal appeals by the nine politicians and activists jailed for their part in the 2017 independence referendum, and those living in exile.

They include former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and his former ministers, Clara Ponsati and Toni Comin.

Andenas said: “You don’t imprison separatist politicians,” adding that the convictions for sedition represented “an abuse of the judicial system … clearly inappropriate in a European political system”.

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In an interview with the Catalan News Agency (ANC) he was critical of Spain for ignoring repeated calls from the WGAD for the release of the pro-independence leaders.

“The Spanish state is part of a group of countries which do not accept individual rulings by the UNWG, and those are countries which the Spanish state does not want to be associated with,” he said.

“It is very difficult to criticise Venezuela, Iran, China, or Russia when the Spanish government behaves this way.”

His remarks came as activist Jordi Cuixart – one of the first to challenge his sentence, along with Jordi Turull – prepares to unveil his grounds of appeal to the ECHR.

The pair announced the move after they had exhausted Spain’s legal processes and cleared the way to take their appeals to Europe.