Catalan separatists trial puts Spain on the edge
Monday, February 11, 2019
Spain is bracing for the most sensitive trial in four decades of democracy this week, with a dozen Catalan separatists facing charges including rebellion over a failed secession bid in 2017.
The proceedings, which begin tomorrow, will be broadcast live on television and all eyes will be focused on the impartiality of the Spanish Supreme Court.
Catalonia’s separatists have attacked the court’s credibility in the run-up to the trial, saying it is a puppet of the Spanish government and any ruling will be a political one that has been decided in advance.
"This is not about delivering justice, it’s about teaching a lesson through punishment,” Jordi Turull, one of the accused, told The Associated Press during an interview in jail. "What they are doing is decorating with rulings the political decisions that have been taken beforehand.”
But Supreme Court president Carlos Lesmes dismisses that notion, saying the trial is the most important since Spain’s transition to democracy in 1977 after the death of dictator Gen. Francisco Franco.
"This is a trial following the highest standards set by the European Union,” Lesmes recently told a group of journalists.
Lesmes says the outcome of the trial will reverberate beyond the political crisis in Catalonia, while recognizing that the Supreme Court’s integrity is at stake.
"I certainly believe that there is a huge campaign to discredit the Spanish judiciary, which forms part of a defense strategy,” he said.
Spanish authorities say that the separatists are guaranteed a fair trial by the very democracy founded on the rule of law that they allegedly violated.
Lesmes rejected the idea that Spanish courts operate at the whim of the government, pointing to recent guilty verdicts for prominent members of the political and economic elite, including last year’s graft conviction of former members of Rajoy’s then-ruling party and the imprisonment, also on graft, of the king’s brother-in-law.
Turull, the ex-spokesman of the Catalan regional government’s Cabinet, and 11 others are being tried for their roles in holding an independence referendum on Oct. 1, 2017, after ignoring a ban by the country’s Constitutional Court, and for the subsequent declaration of independence 26 days later despite more warnings from authorities.
The conflict with Catalonia has been festering ever since, with a regional election on December 21, 2017, showing that the 7.5 million residents of Catalonia remain divided by the secession question.-AP