Trial of Catalan Independence Leaders Ends in Spain

Trial of Catalan Independence Leaders Ends in Spain

There is no formal deadline for the Supreme Court’s seven judges to render a verdict, but a ruling is expected before November. By then the defendants will have spent two years in prison, after being denied bail in 2017.

The case has also been closely followed in other parts of Spain, like the Basque region, which has its own separatist history. “It’s clear to us that this has been a show trial, to frighten anybody else who wants to challenge the state,” said Idoia Elorza, a Basque Nationalist Party official who traveled to Madrid this week with some colleagues to follow the trial’s closing days.

The trial’s most divisive issue has been whether the independence drive involved violence — and whether the leaders of the movement could be held personally accountable. On Wednesday, Jordi Turull, a former member of the Catalan government, said it was “an insult to Catalan society” to suggest that a few leaders had manipulated more than 2 million voters into taking part in the October 2017 referendum. “Catalans are not sheep,” he told the courtroom.

Other defendants also forecast that the independence movement would keep growing — with or without their help — and ultimately force the Spanish government to allow an independence referendum in Catalonia.

“The ballot box can never be a threat to democracy,” said Jordi Sànchez, a defendant who faces up to 17 years in prison if convicted. “In Catalonia, there will be ballot boxes and votes and we will have them thanks to an agreement with the Spanish government, like in Scotland or Quebec.”

If convicted, the defendants could appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, or they could be pardoned by Mr. Sánchez. However, Spain’s prime minister is under intense pressure not to make further concessions to separatist politicians, particularly following his unsuccessful effort to reopen a political dialogue with them last year. The talks went nowhere, and instead the separatists helped vote down Mr. Sánchez’s budget in February, forcing him into a snap election.

The defendants’ closing statements, which referred to philosophical writings from Socrates to Hannah Arendt, also warned the judges directly that their ruling could significantly impact Spain’s political future. “You have the responsibility of not worsening a political situation,” Jordi Sànchez told the judges. “I would not like to be in your shoes now.”

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