AMNESTY International has called on the Spanish Government to release a Catalan pro-independence leader who has been in jail without trial for almost four months.

Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena decided not to release Jordi Sànchez, former president of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), because there was a risk of a repeat offence.

Llarena pointed to the activist’s “pro-independence ideology” and not stepping down from public office.

However, following Llarena’s ruling on Tuesday, Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s Europe director, described the detention as “excessive”.

“The ongoing pre-trial detention of Jordi Sànchez is an excessive and disproportionate restriction on his right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” she said.

“Rather than taking the opportunity today to put an end to his ongoing detention, the Supreme Court has instead compounded this injustice.

“Jordi Sànchez should be immediately released.

“In Amnesty International’s opinion, today’s ruling does not bring new elements that justify the continuation of Sanchez’s detention.”

“Moreover, the charges of sedition and rebellion that Sànchez and [Jordi] Cuixart face, according to the information available to Amnesty International, are unjustified and therefore should be withdrawn.

“Whilst calling for protests to obstruct lawful police operations, if proved, may be a punishable public order offence, it does not constitute a serious crime such as sedition or rebellion, which carries sentences of up to 10 and 30 years.”

Amnesty said that while it did not question the September 7 Constitutional Court ruling suspending the Catalan referendum, as private citizens and presidents of civil society organisations at the time, Sànchez and Cuixart had the right to express opinions contrary to the decisions of the court, as well as to organise peaceful meetings in support of the referendum and independence.

Both Sànchez and Cuixart, known popularly as the “Two Jordis”, are accused of using huge demonstrations to try to stop Spanish state police following a judge’s orders to halt the referendum.

In another legal move yesterday, a session of the Constitutional Court (TC) decided to admit the Catalan Government’s appeal against the direct rule imposed by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy under Article 155 of the country’s constitution.

The Catalan Generalitat presented a case of “unconstitutionality” against the court agreeing to Madrid’s measures at the end of October.

If successful, the appeal would restore Catalonia’s autonomy.

The TC will transfer the case to the Congress of Deputies, the lower house of Spain’s parliament – the Senate and Spanish Government –with the Generalitat being given 15 days to take part in the proceedings and prove the allegations.

However, Madrid took control of the Catalan Government and sacked its ministers and several departmental heads, which would put the appeal in the hands of Rajoy’s appointees.

Allowing for this, the TC said that “in order to avoid a conflict in the defence of the interests of the state and of the autonomous community of Catalonia” the appeal would be suspended until there is a government in Catalonia and the terms of Article 155 are lifted.