Catalan independence trial starts in Spain’s Supreme Court

Twelve leaders to be judged for calling a referendum in 2017 opposed by Madrid

Jailed Catalan leaders in Spain's Supreme Court
Jailed Catalan leaders in Spain's Supreme Court / ACN

ACN | Madrid

February 12, 2019 10:23 AM

The trial of Catalan independence leaders has begun. From Tuesday, February 12, and for the next few months, 12 leading politicians and activists will be tried for calling a referendum and declaring independence in 2017,  despite opposition from the authorities in Madrid.

What will be judged is the whole independence bid, which the public prosecutor claims all started in 2012 with a preconceived plan.

The sessions will revolve around some major events during that time, including the October 1, 2017 referendum and a subsequent declaration of independence, all deemed illegal by Spain.

“This case is punishing political dissidence," said defense lawyer Andreu Van den Eynde, speaking in the courtroom on Tuesday. "This case represents a general and improper suspension of political rights, contravening Spain's Constitutional Court's case-law."

 In all, 12 people will face trial for their role in the independence bid, some of whom are accused of violent rebellion—one of the most serious offenses in Spain's criminal code.

All the Catalan government members during the referendum who did not go into exile—like Carles Puigdemont, the then president—will go before the judges. That is former vice president Oriol Junqueras, and former ministers Josep Rull, Jordi Turull, Dolors Bassa, Raül Romeva, Joaquim Forn, Meritxell Borràs, Carles Mundó and Santi Vila.

In the opening session of the trial, lawyers denounced several violations of their defendants' rights. "I ask for the trial be temporarily suspended due to the violation of the right to defense, as the defense teams don't have access to all the evidence admitted by the Supreme Court," said Jordi Pina, lawyer of Turull, Rull, and Sànchez.

"After 15 months in pre-trial jail, the trial starts today," said Forn via Twitter on Tuesday. Incarcerated on November 2, 2017, the former minister responsible for the Catalan police is one of the defendants who has spent the most time in prison.

The lawyer of Forn, Xavier Melero, denounced his client being tried at the Supreme Court while the Catalan police leadership faces trial at Spain's National Court. "Mr Forn is not here as a mere member of the Catalan government. He is here because he is thought to have had the capacity to control the Catalan police."

The parliament speaker during that period, Carme Forcadell, will also be tried, as will the two leaders of the main pro-independence civil organizations on September 20, 2017, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart.

"Time to wake up in Soto [del Real prison] cell number 12," said Cuixart via Twitter. "Today the trial against democracy in [Spain's] Supreme Court starts: 16 months later, my pride in leading Òmnium and our collective honor remain intact."

They have all been in pre-trial prison at some point–most of them for a year or more.

Political consequences

The independence trial could have major political consequences for the troubled relationship between Catalonia and Spain. The current Catalan president, Quim Torra—who arrived in the Supreme Court on Tuesday to follow the trial's opening sessions—hinted at the possibility of calling a new independence vote should the Catalan leaders be convicted.