(Reuters) - Twelve Catalan politicians go on trial on Tuesday for their role in Catalonia’s failed 2017 independence bid، putting the spotlight back on Spain’s biggest political crisis in decades which could make it flare once again.
To the dismay of much of the rest of Spain، Catalonia defied a judicial ban by carrying out a referendum and subsequently unilaterally declaring independence in October 2017.
There was shock at home and abroad when police used batons and rubber bullets on protesters on the day of the vote. Some of the Catalan separatist leaders were later arrested or fled the country.
The start on Tuesday of the trial will refocus attention on the region’s push for secession which so rattles Spain’s political and cultural identity.
The trial will decide if Catalan nationalist leaders stay in jail. The public prosecutor is seeking prison terms of up to 25 years on charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds. At stake are Spain’s stability، the future of Catalonia’s independence movement as well as the region’s and the central government’s image abroad.
“It’s the most important trial we have had in democracy”، Supreme Court president Carlos Lesmes told reporters on Feb. 1، referring to the return to democracy in Spain after dictator Francisco Franco’s death in 1975.
Raul Romeva، one of nine defendants jailed without bail since late 2017 facing the charge of rebellion، has made clear his view that it should end only with an acquittal.