12 Catalan separatist leaders will go on trial in Spain’s top court today on charges related to a failed independence referendum in October 2017. Nine of the 12 individuals will be charged with rebellion, which carries a maximum 25-year prison sentence.
The trial will heighten tensions across Spain. In Madrid on Sunday, more than 40,000 people protested against the central government’s recent concessions to Catalan separatists, which many characterised as treasonous. Leftist PM Pedro Sanchez recently extended an olive branch to Catalans by appointing a rapporteur in future talks. The talks have since been called off.
Mr Sanchez, the leader of the Socialist Party, has led a minority since ousting ex-PM Mariano Rajoy in a no-confidence vote last June. Now, the PM is trying to reach out to Catalan lawmakers in a bid to secure the votes necessary to pass the 2019 budget. If he is unable to do so, Sanchez has said he may call a snap election.
Back in Spain’s Supreme Court, the chief justice has labelled today’s trial “the most important trial that we’ve held since democracy [returned]”. The trial is expected to last three months and will be broadcast on TV—spurring debate, sparking protests and driving a wedge further into the European Union’s fifth largest economy.
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Simon is the founder of Foreign Brief who served as managing director from 2015 to 2021. A lawyer by training, Simon has worked as an analyst and adviser in the private sector and government. Simon’s desire to help clients understand global developments in a contextualised way underpinned the establishment of Foreign Brief. This aspiration remains the organisation’s driving principle.