Tensions high as Catalan separatists’ long-awaited trial begins in Madrid

Source:AFP Published: 2019/2/12 21:53:43

Twelve Catalan separatist leaders involved in an attempt to break from Spain went on trial on Tuesday under intense scrutiny, as tensions over the future of the region flare again.

The defendants, some of whom have been in pre-trial custody for over a year, sat on benches in the ornate room of Madrid's Supreme Court, facing seven judges and a discreet Spanish flag in proceedings broadcast live on television.

All are on trial over an independence referendum that was held on October 1, 2017 despite a court ban, as well as a ­short-lived declaration of ­independence, which sparked Spain's worst political crisis since the death of dictator Francisco Franco.

Nine defendants have been charged with rebellion, with some also accused of misuse of public funds. They have all been in pre-trial detention for months, some of them for more than a year. The three ­others are accused of disobedience and misuse of public funds.

Separatist officials demonstrated near the courthouse.

"We're at the Supreme Court to accuse the Spanish state of violating the civil and political rights of all Catalans," the region's separatist president Quim Torra tweeted after holding a banner that read "Deciding is not an offense."

Separatists in Catalonia want to be able to hold a referendum on their future and have dismissed the trial as a politically motivated "farce."

Pro-independence protesters in the region briefly blocked several roads before dawn, ­setting fire to tires and holding up traffic. 

Posted in: EUROPE

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