It has been a while since I sent the last political update on Catalonia but the current situation definitely warrants some new information.
FIRST, A QUICK RECAP
This past October 2018 marked a year since the politicians and leaders of the two major pro-independence organizations were put in preventive prison for organizing a referendum on Catalan independence. Following the non-binding referendum, the Catalan Parliament declared independence but the Spanish government said it was an illegal vote and jailed the people responsible.
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW WITH THE PRISONERS?
After more than one year the politicians will have the chance to explain what they really did during a trial that started this week in the Spanish Supreme Court and that will probably last for 3 months. Twelve people are facing different charges for rebellion, sedition and embezzlement and could face sentences of up to 25 years in prison. More than 500 witnesses are expected to testify including the former Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy.
WHAT WILL THEY PLEAD?
The pro-independence politicians allege that they did nothing wrong or illegal by “using democracy” to ask Catalan citizens if they wanted Catalonia to become independent. They also claim that the Spanish police used brutality and broke human rights when they used force to prevent people from voting as well as imprisoning the politicians before any charges were decided in the courts. The lawyers of the defendants are treating this trial as a case against Human Rights and if the defendants are found guilty they will appeal to the Spanish Constitutional Court and also to the European Court of Human Rights located in Strasbourg.
HOW IS THE TRIAL AFFECTING NATIONAL POLITICS?
Mucho! President Pedro Sánchez, who came into power with very little political clout, has seen it erode even further and just today announced that there will be snap elections at the end of April for a new Spanish government. President Sánchez lost support of the Catalan government when he failed to make any negotiations with them towards independence.
WHAT ARE THE VIBES ON THE STREETS OF BARCELONA AND MADRID?
In Catalonia, the support for the release of the so called “political prisoners” has grown and can be seen and felt. At the same time the opponents of secessionism have become more visible with the creation of the new extreme right-wing party, VOX, that recently won the Andalusian regional elections, or just last week with more than 45.000 people demonstrating in Madrid in favor of the unity of Spain. However, in our day-to-day, life goes on as normal.