Trial of Catalan separatist leaders begins in Madrid
12 Feb 2019, 21:26 ( 6 days ago)
The trial of the Catalan separatist leaders, who organized an independence referendum in the Catalan region in northeastern Spain in 2017, began at the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid on Tuesday.
The 12 politicians and social leaders face prison sentences of between seven and 25 years for their roles in organizing a vote which was declared illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court.
Although former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is currently in exile in Belgium, his former deputy Oriol Junqueras is among the defendants who face charges ranging from rebellion, sedition, civil disobedience and the misuse of public funds.
Junqueras faces a possible 25-year sentence. Junqueras and eight more defendants, including former "Catalan interior minister" Joaquin Forn, have already spend over 15 months in preventive custody.
Witnesses who are expected to testify over the coming weeks include former Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and former Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, and Ada Colau, the mayor of Barcelona, the largest city in the Catalan region.
The trial will sit between Tuesday and Thursday every week and it is expected to last around three months, with sentences expected by the end of July.
The trial has become a major political headache for current Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who needs the support of Catalan nationalist parties in order to pass this year's budget, among others.
Catalonia is an autonomous region in the northeastern corner of Spain. It held an independence referendum on Oct. 1, 2017 and unilaterally declared "independence" on Oct. 27. The Spanish Constitutional Court has declared the referendum illegal.