The government of Catalonia has vowed to continue with its plans to secure its independence from Spain. This come as ex-President of Catalonia Artur Mas is put on trial by Spain accused of criminal disobedience for holding a symbolic independence referendum in Catalonia in 2014. Artur Mas, who governed Catalonia from 2010 to 2016, will appear at the high court in Barcelona on Monday (06/02/17) along with former vice-president Joana Ortega and former education minister Irene Rigau.
More than 80% of participants voted for independence in the non-binding vote, staged in November 2014. The accusation against the three democratically elected Catalan politicians is of criminal disobedience and breach of trust for holding the referendum in defiance of Spain’s constitutional court. If convicted they could receive a 10-year ban on holding public office. In taking this heavy handed approach Spain has been accused of putting democracy on trial. In particular by treating the people of Catalonia as criminals the Spanish government is seen to be set on a course that has the aim of destroying Catalan democracy.
Catalonia is an autonomous community of Spain and is designated as a nationality by its Statute of Autonomy. The Catalan independence movement seeks the independence of Catalonia from Spain. Artur Mas stepped down as president in January 2016 to ensure that a pro-independence coalition could govern. He was replaced as president by Carles Puigdemont who on taking the oath of office, omitted the oath of loyalty to the king and the Spanish constitution. the first Catalonian president to do so.
The trial of Artur Mas, Joana Ortega and Irene Rigau comes when tensions between Madrid and Barcelona escalate. The Catalan government is preparing to hold another vote on separation later this year. Madrid has also refused to rule out resorting to drastic measures to prevent the referendum being held, including closing schools to stop them being used as polling stations and even taking control of the Catalan police. Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy has hinted that he would use military force and that the state might "use any available judicial and political mechanism contained in the constitution and in the laws to defend the sovereignty of the Spanish people and of the general interest of Spain".
Everyone in the Celtic nations, needs to stand together with Catalonia today. It is their right to determine their own future. Just as it was for Scotland when they had their referendum and regardless of what view you hold on independence. It is democracy that is being put on trial as the Spanish government seeks to deny Catalan people a voice.