Rather less than 16 months in the past, the 9 males and 3 girls sitting at the plush burgundy benches of Madrid’s ultimate court docket have been ministers within the Catalan regional executive and high-profile civic leaders.
On Tuesday morning, then again, they stepped out of jail vehicles to take their puts because the defendants in landmark complaints variously described because the trial of the century, a “tension take a look at for Spanish democracy”, and the only maximum essential judicial tournament the rustic has noticed for the reason that finish of the Franco dictatorship.
The dozen are status trial over their alleged roles within the regional independence disaster that pitched Spain into its worst political turmoil for 4 many years.
All the way through the following 3 months, seven ultimate court docket judges will examine the jobs the accused performed within the run-up to the independence referendum in October 2017 and the following unilateral declaration of independence.
9 of the defendants – who come with the previous Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras, the previous speaker of the Catalan parliament Carme Forcadell and two influential grassroots activists, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez – are accused of riot, which carries a jail sentence of as much as 25 years.
Different fees come with sedition and the misuse of public price range.
The tone for the trial was once temporarily set via the heavy police and media presence, the protesters out of doors the court docket who greeted the arriving of Catalonia’s pro-independence president, Quim Torra, with cries of “Coup offender!”, and via the primary defence attorney to talk.
Junqueras’ suggest, Andreu Van den Eynde, pushed aside the case as a politically motivated workout and instructed the court docket that prosecutors have been seeking to criminalise presentations of loose expression and curtail the defendants’ proper to argue for self-determination.
“No world or EU regulation blocks the secession of a regional entity; self-determination is synonymous with peace and now not struggle,” he mentioned.
Van den Eynde, who could also be representing the previous Catalan international minister Raül Romeva, mentioned his shoppers’ freedom of expression were violated.
“The political enviornment is a loose house,” he mentioned. “Freedom of expression extends even to these concepts that surprise and offend.”
He described the sophisticated felony procedure as a “procedural vaudeville” and mentioned it was once meant to place Catalan independence itself on trial.
Jordi Pina, a attorney representing the Catalan MP and previous civil society chief Jordi Sànchez, known as for the court docket to permit testimony from King Felipe, arguing that the Spanish monarch’s arguable speech two days after the referendum were cited in prosecution paperwork.
The king had accused Catalan government of making an attempt to wreck “the cohesion of Spain” and warned that their push for independence may just chance the rustic’s social and financial balance.
Pina additionally prompt the court docket to rethink its choice to not permit testimony from the previous Catalan president Carles Puigdemont by the use of videolink from Brussels.
The trial – which started in a while after 10.20am on Tuesday and is being broadcast on tv – will focal point at the Puigdemont executive’s choice to carry the referendum regardless of repeated warnings that it might violate the charter, which stresses the “indissoluble cohesion of the Spanish country”.
Even though Catalan pro-independence events have by no means controlled to win 50% of the vote within the regional parliament, and even though polls persistently display Catalonia is more or less frivolously cut up over the independence factor, Puigdemont’s management selected to press forward with the vote.
Professional-independence events controlled to get a regulation paving the best way for the referendum handed within the regional parliament in early September 2017, regardless of livid objections from opposition MPs, who complained that same old procedures were brushed aside.
The regulation was once therefore suspended and ultimately struck down via Spain’s constitutional court docket.
However the Catalan executive opted to carry the referendum, which was once marred via violence. Spanish law enforcement officials raided polling stations, charged crowds with batons and fired rubber bullets of their makes an attempt to forestall the vote.
In keeping with the Catalan executive, about 2.three million of Catalonia’s five.three million registered citizens – 43% – took section within the referendum, and about 90% of members subsidized independence. The vote was once in large part boycotted via unionist Catalans.
On 27 October, in a while after secessionist Catalan MPs voted to claim independence, the Spanish executive of the then top minister, Mariano Rajoy, gained senate backing to sack Puigdemont and his cupboard and think direct keep an eye on of Catalonia.
Defence legal professionals will search to undermine the riot fees. They’ll indicate that, below Spanish regulation, riot is composed of “revolting violently and publicly”, and argue that none of the ones charged with the offence engaged in violence.
Chatting with the Dad or mum and a small staff of different Eu journalists in Madrid at the eve of the trial, the Catalan president, Quim Torra, criticised the costs.
“The one violence we noticed all the way through September and October  was once from the Spanish police,” he mentioned. “They attempted to forestall electorate from going to vote peacefully on 1 October. However this has all been became on its head. There was once no violence, everybody noticed there was once no violence.”
The case will as soon as once more convey world consideration to the long-lasting tensions between the Madrid executive and the pro-independence regional executive of Catalonia.
The president of the ultimate court docket, Carlos Lesmes, has described the complaints as “an important trial that we’ve held since democracy [returned]”.
However on Monday night time, Torra mentioned: “So far as we’re involved, Spanish justice has just about 0 credibility.”
His sacked predecessor, in the meantime, known as the trial a “tension take a look at for Spanish democracy” and a take a look at for the rustic’s judiciary.
Talking in Berlin on Tuesday, Puigdemont described his former colleagues on trial as “honourable, blameless, democratic other people,” and insisted there have been “no prison violations of the Spanish prison regulation”.
The beginning of the trial led some Catalan pro-independence protesters to in brief block a number of roads ahead of daybreak, surroundings hearth to tyres and maintaining up site visitors. Protests have been known as in Barcelona for 7pm.