In October 2017, the Catalan regional government with its declaration of independence of Spain failed. But the political conflict around the region around Barcelona is still smoldering. Former Catalan Prime Minister Carles Puigdemont lives in exile in Brussels. On his return to Spain he is threatened with arrest. The charge: rebellion.
Puigdemont's fellow combatants have been in front of the Supreme Court since Tuesday Madrid responsibility. The lawsuit divides Spain: The plaintiffs in Madrid invoke the protection of the Constitution, which does not allow the secession of a region of Spain. On the other hand, Catalan separatists see the proceedings as a violation of their right to self-determination.
The case before the Supreme Court in Madrid is directed against twelve Catalan leaders and activists. Most have been in custody for over a year. The defendants include the former vice president CataloniaOriol Junqueras, as well as the former president of the Catalan regional parliament, Carme Forcadell.
The most prominent representative of the Catalans, the former regional president Carles Puigdemont, remains spared after his escape into exile for the time being by a process. The Spanish judiciary does not conduct any proceedings in the absence of the accused. Puigdemont announced that they would speak on the day the process was opened.
Nine of the twelve defendants are on trial for allegations of rebellion. They face high prison sentences. The highest sentence of 25 years imprisonment demands the prosecutor for the former vice regional president Junqueras. She accuses him of rebellion and misappropriation of public funds. Prosecutors demand 17 years in prison for Former Parliament President Forcadell. Just as long, according to the prosecutor's request, the defendants Jordi Sànchez, former chairman of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), and Jordi Cuixart, then head of the Cultural Association Òmnium Cultural, are imprisoned.
However, unlike other defendants, Cuixart and Sànchez had no political responsibility for organizing the independence referendum or possible split-off plans, but both acted as activists or leaders of civic movements. According to the indictment, they have repeatedly called for demonstrations and protests for the independence of Catalonia from Spain, deliberately hampered the work of the police and accepted the risk of violent action.
Particularly controversial is the fact of the rebellion. Spanish penal law requires the use of force or at least the call for it. While the prosecution sees this as a given, the defense rejects the charge decided. Violence did not come from their clients, but from the police, who on the day of the referendum had embarked on people who wanted to vote peacefully, the defense argues.
"It is not the independence leaders who sit in the dock, but democracy," said the Catalan lawyer Àlex Solà, representing Jordi Cuixart. Sola hopes for an international solidarity effect on the Catalan cause: "The whole world will be our jury, we have to convince them."
In fact, the independence fighters in the autumn of 2017 had repeatedly stressed that they understood themselves as a non-violent movement. On the streets of Barcelona Even during the heated situation, citizens and tourists were able to move without being disturbed. When Puigdemont proclaimed independence in front of the Catalan regional parliament, he immediately suspended their immediate entry into force in order to initiate negotiations with Madrid, as he formulated it at that time.
The Spanish government appears in the process as a co-plaintiff. She argues, unlike the prosecutor, not on rebellion, but on the lesser offense offense uproar. Meanwhile, in Madrid, the socialist minority government of Pedro Sánchez is in power. Sánchez came into office last June after a vote of no confidence against his conservative predecessor Mariano Rajoy, among others, with the votes of several separatist parties from Catalonia and is dependent in Parliament on their support.
In the conflict with Catalonia, Sánchez, unlike Rajoy, relies on dialogue and relaxation. He has met several times since his assumption of office for talks with the current Catalan regional president and Puigdemont successor Quim Torra. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated against this policy in Madrid on Sunday. The protesters accused the government of yielding to negotiations with the separatist regional government of Catalonia and called for new elections. They were a call of the conservative parties PP and Ciudadanos
and the right-wing populist Vox party. The three party leaders
posed together for photos.
It is expected that both advocates of Catalan independence and Spanish nationalists will try to use the process in public favor.
The separatists are likely to stage themselves as victims of a repressive central government and question the Spanish rule of law. In addition, they will increasingly hope for international solidarity. At the same time, Spanish nationalists will demand harsh sentences for the defendants. Above all, Spain's Prime Minister Sánchez could come under further pressure because of his dependence on Catalan parties and his mediated policy. It can therefore be assumed that the process will polarize and contribute to an increasing division of society.
Quim Torra, successor to the former regional president Puigdemont, has also made it clear that for him Catalan independence is the only way forward. The illegal referendum on 1 October 2017, during which Catalans in polling stations, but also in chaotic scenes on the streets could vote on the secession of Spain, considers Torra as a mandate to found a new state. As a consequence of the political conflict, until a few months ago Catalonia was under the compulsory administration of Madrid, which has since been abolished.
It is still unclear at the time, as today, whether a clear majority of the seven million Catalans really want Spain to secede. Polls have not given a clear answer in the past and sentiment is about 50 to 50. But even if there were a majority for the secession and the Catalan government reached an agreement with the Spanish central government, the region would have only one independence Constitutional amendment feasible. However, such a reform towards a Spanish federal state requires a two-thirds majority in the Spanish parliament and could hardly be enforced at present by the minority government led by the socialists.
With material from AFP
Collaboration: Lisa Caspari