'Shameful', 'painful' and 'outrageous' – parties react to start of Catalan trial
Spain is "violating fundamental rights," say pro-independence grassroots groups whose leaders face up to 17 years in prison
The trial of pro-independence leaders in the Spanish Supreme Court is "shameful," "painful" and "outrageous," according to several political leaders from Catalonia and Spain, speaking to the press at the doors of the court.
"Despite the pain we feel, we will see a lot of dignity on the courtroom benches. All they did was provide ballot boxes. We'll see how shameful the Spanish state is, it's scared of democracy, it's persecuting peaceful people that only allowed citizens to decide their own future," said the current parliament speaker, Roger Torrent.
"This is a political case, not a criminal one. It's a political trial against political ideas. If there is a sentence against our colleagues we will keep standing in favor of Catalan independence and a referendum," said vicepresident Pere Aragonès in comments to Catalan News.
The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, described the trial as a "failure of politics". According to her, the "only way" to solve the situation is for all the prisoners to be "released" and to start "dialogue and negotiations". Colau said that there is a "majority" in Catalonia against the trial and described this Monday as a "sad day" for Spain.
"What is at stake is democracy," said Barcelona city councilor from mayor Ada Colau'sparty, Jaume Asens. "It's outrageous and shameful," he added, describing the trial as an "act of vengeance" against political leaders.
The spokesman for JxCat, the party of former leader Carles Puigdemont, said the trial is against "every Catalan". "This is a trial against ballot boxes. We are all sitting at the bench for the accused," said MP Eduard Pujol.
Meanwhile, pro-independence far-left CUP Vidal Aragonès said that the trial should be won politically. "We need the people to get organized and to mobilize," he said in comments to the press from the doors of the Supreme Court. He expressed his solidarity with the defendants, and warned that the process will not be fair and is a mere "formality" to condemn them.
The president of the Catalan National Assembly, Elisenda Paluzie, said it is a "political trial" that should become "a boomerang against a Spanish state that is not up to the 21st century standards." Former president of the Catalan National Assembly and currently and MP, Jordi Sànchez, is one of the accused in the trial and faces up to 18 years in prison.
The vicepresident of Òmnium Cultural, Marcel Mauri, said that the trial should become a platform to "denounce a violation of fundamental rights and freedoms." The president of Òmnium, Jordi Cuixart, is also one of the defendants, facing also 18 years in jail. Mauri asked citizens to protests against the trial, and defended Catalans right to self-determination.
From the Spanish left-wing Podemos party, spokeswoman in the Congress, Ione Belarra, said the trial "should never have happened."
"It's the result of a suicidal strategy by the People's Party," she said, adding that the former Spanish government had contributed to "inflating" the political conflict by sending it to the courts instead of finding a negotiated and political solution.
Madrid's left-wing platform, the Coordinadora 25S, showed its support for the political leaders, with the platform's spokeswoman, Elena Martínez, saying the trial was judging "democracy and the Spanish state," which Martínez said "only had repressive solutions."
As for the pro-independence PDeCAT party, to whom a number of the defendants belong, its president David Bonvehí called the trial "a genuine disgrace for 21st century Spain." Speaking outside the court, Bonvehí insisted that the leaders on trial "did nothing illegal" and so "should not be tried in the courts of what is considered a democratic state."
European politicians react to trial
The start of the trial also elicited responses abroad, such as from Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon. "These trials of elected politicians should concern all democrats," she tweeted, adding: "The future of Catalonia should be decided through the ballot box, not in the courts."
There was reaction from Brussels, too, with German MEP, Udo Bullmann, expressing "total confidence" in the Spanish government to find a "peaceful solution" to the Catalan crisis. Asked about the trial, Bullmann argued that the "situation must be resolved within the judicial system."