As BBC explains in Catalan independence: Spain prosecutor calls for rebellion case:

Spain's chief prosecutor has called for charges including rebellion to be laid against Catalan leaders following the region's declaration of independence.

In the Spanish penal code, rebellion is defined as:

A more serious version of sedition is rebellion, reserved for those who rise "violently and publicly" to, among other objectives, "repeal, suspend or totally or partially modify the Constitution" or "declare the independence of a part of the national territory.

(my translation from the article ¿Qué son los delitos de sedición y rebelión?)

This can lead to sentences of up to 25 years of prison and was previously used against leaders of the coup d'état in 1981 (whose main executor was released after 15 years and the main leader just after five).

With all this context, how can the Catalan leaders be accused of rebellion if no violence has happened during the proclamation of independence?

Just for context, and as explained in A Spanish judge has jailed two key members of the Catalan independence movement. Have others been ever accused and convicted for sedition?, the leaders of the main independence movements have been accused of sedition (which can lead to ~10 years of emprisonment) for demonstrations that did not lead in violence.

  • 5
    Whether there is a case for "rebellion" charges is likely to depend on the meaning of the language translated as "violently and publicly", in a Spanish legal context. (In legal terminology, words can have meanings quite different from their informal usage.) Presumably, the prosecutor is arguing for a broad interpretation of this language, such that it applies to recent actions in Catalonia -- for example, civil disobedience or economic disruption. I have no idea whether judges would agree with that intepretation. Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 12:39
  • 1
    According to Spain’s chief prosecutor, José Manuel Maza, there has been violence. As you can read in the text of the criminal complaint: "los querellados eran conscientes y asumían que esa misma muchedumbre iba a protagonizar también, como así ocurrió, actos de violencia material y física para la consecución de ese fin primario de celebrar el referéndum que ineludiblemente llevaría a conseguir la proclamación de una república catalana independiente de España."
    – Charo
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 8:12
  • 2
    I feel like the question should highlight which word was translated as "violence" and what Spanish dictionaries define that word as. Certainly in English the word "violence" does not have to include anything physical.
    – Paul
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 8:30

1 Answer 1


Note that the article you quote also says

En caso de que el alzamiento fuera armado o si se produce “combate entre la fuerza de su mando y los sectores leales a la autoridad legítima, o la rebelión hubiese causado estragos en propiedades de titularidad pública o privada, cortado las comunicaciones telegráficas, telefónicas, por ondas, ferroviarias o de otra clase, ejercido violencias graves contra las personas”, las penas se elevan hasta los 30 años de prisión.

My translation1 for the benefit of third parties:

If the uprising is armed or results in "combat between the force under his/her command and those loyal to the legitimate authority, or the rebellion should have caused damage to publicly or privately owned property, cut communication (whether telegraphic, telephonic, by waves, railways, or of any other kind), or exercised serious violence against persons", the penalty increases to up to 30 years' imprisonment.

The key phrases I want to highlight are "If the uprising is armed or ... exercised serious violence against persons". Implicitly, sufficient "violence" for the charge of rebellion can occur without the use of arms or infliction of serious injury. Since the prosecutor will consider events of the past few months as a whole, and as relevant context where not directly included in the charges, the bruises and bites sustained by some police officers on the 1st of October can be adduced as both violence and relevant.

El escrito dedica numerosas páginas a relatar, colegio por colegio, los principales incidentes registrados durante la jornada de la consulta ilegal. Maza responsabiliza a Puigdemont, Forcadell y el resto de querellados de estos altercados: “Los momentos de violencia vividos en gran parte de los centros destinados a llevar a cabo la ilícita votación fueron el resultado de la pertinaz actitud de los querellados de celebrar a toda costa el inconstitucional referéndum imponiéndolo por la fuerza de los hechos consumados y de la multitud movilizada”.

Source and my translation:

The document dedicates numerous pages to recounting, polling station by polling station, the main incidents recorded on the day of the illegal consultation. [The prosecutor] Maza holds Puigdemont, Forcadell and the other defendants responsible: "the moments of violence experienced in a large proportion of the centres selected to carry out the illegal vote were the result of the persistent attitude of the defendants to hold the unconstitutional referendum at any cost, imposing it by the force of fait accompli and the mobilised masses"

It seems that he might also be aiming for the 30 year penalty on the basis that it was armed rebellion, because he also speaks about

la asunción en exclusiva del mando sobre los Mossos d’Esquadra, cuerpo policial integrado por más de 17.000 efectivos armados, con el potencial efecto intimidatorio que los mismos representan para quienes intenten hacer efectiva la vigencia de la Constitución

The assumption of exclusive command over the Mossos d'Esquadra, a police force consisting of more than 17000 armed people, with the potential intimidatory effect which they represent to those who might try to uphold the Constitution

I note as a secondary point that El País reported last week that the intention was to lay charges of sedition/rebellion, leaving the judges to decide which was the correct charge, because rebellion is outside the jurisdiction of the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia de Cataluña, and so by including it in the charge sheet they could bypass the aforamiento of the senior politicians involved and bring the case before the Audiencia Nacional instead of before the TSJC. Unfortunately I can't find the right combination of search keywords to dig out the article: if anyone else can, please edit in a link.

1 NB "persons" is idiomatic English in a legal context, but not otherwise.

  • 2
    The full text of the criminal complaint filed by Spain’s chief prosecutor, José Manuel Maza, can be found here. It seems that, in addition to these facts, lots of other recent actions in Catalonia are considered violence. Even protests with pots and pans are considered violence because, according to Maza, disturbed sleep of Spanish police.
    – Charo
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 22:51
  • @Charo do you mean that a country is forbidding people from harassing police officers at their homes and dwellings? I am shocked! Who could have guessed!? youtube.com/watch?v=hEXE0HRVt9Q
    – SJuan76
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 0:23
  • 1
    Thanks a lot for your thorough answer, Peter Taylor. I found a couple of articles (in Spanish) that tend to assume that the rebellion must be violent: El redactor del delito de rebelión niega que se pueda aplicar a Puigdemont and La rebelión, un delito que no es para pacifistas.
    – fedorqui
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 8:19
  • 1
    @fedorqui, I understand (and I thought from the question that you understand too) that violence is what separates rebellion from sedition. Therefore the answer doesn't attempt to address the question "Is violence a necessary component of rebellion?" but rather "What constitutes "sufficient" violence for the charge of rebellion?" and "What basis does the prosecutor have for claiming that this threshold is met?" (with an aside on "Why go for that charge rather than just sedition?") Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 8:32
  • 1
    @fedorqui and, apart from the context, there is a need to prove that this incidents and others were part of a campaign and decide if they meet the criteria for rebellion. I too would not be shocked to learn if the attorney is following a CYA strategy (indict for everything possible, let the judges take the blame if they don't convict). But I thought worthy to show an example of what "disturbing the sleep of Spanish police" actually was.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 16:00

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .