Domestic turmoil in Spain over the state of Catalan has been brewing for a while. Now, lawyers representing several pro-Independence Catalan leaders are accusing the police and state of humiliating them. According to Al Jazeera, on Tuesday, they cited “flagrant violations” of their client’s rights and a need to study the evidence that will be presented for trial.
Catalan has historically pushed for independence for many years, but on October 1, 2017, the state held a referendum on the issue. The vote caused a high turnout despite police efforts to discourage it and it passed with an impressive majority. The measure was not acknowledged by the national government, but after its results, the state unilaterally declared independence on October 27th. The Spanish government responded by dissolving the Catalonian Regional government, sparking conflict within the region.
In December 2018, this unrest culminated in violent protests. Clashes between separatists and police led to the arrest of twelve protestors and fifty injured. Now, six of the nine separatist leaders are requesting the courts give them a three-week delay in their trial. The accused includes Oriol Junqueras, a former Catalan Vice President, as well as members of the far-left CUP party. Along with several others, he has been charged with embezzlement of public funds, rebellion, and disobedience. The request for the delay was filed by Jordi Pina the lawyer representing civil society leader Jordi Sanchez. Two other leaders, Jordi Turull and Josep Rull, stated they were placed in “unnecessarily dangerous conditions.” Their complaint also cited a video on social media that depicted the Spanish Civil Guard, the national police force, making fun of both prisoners. Their defense lawyers are calling this evidence of the humiliating treatment they suffered.
All eyes in Spain are on this trial, which some have dubbed the “trial of the century.” The state of Catalan has always had a contentious relationship with its sovereign and as the country still deals with the legacy of oppression of the Franco dictatorship, some are looking to this trial as a definitive sign of change. Whether or not the leaders are convicted will have huge consequences on not only the Spanish nation, but also the quality of democracy and peace within the region.
The trials were originally to be held in Madrid, but the Spanish Supreme Court ruled that to do so would “superfluously amplify” a case that will most likely be long and complex by its very nature. The defendants were moved to a pretrial detention center in Barcelona, waiting to be tried in their regional court for roughly a year. While the importance of the trials cannot be underplayed, it will be a significant amount of time before any final decision will be made.
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