October 11, 2019 / 8:51 AM / 4 months ago

Spanish court to rule on Catalan separatists early next week - sources

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s Supreme Court is set to announce as early as Monday its verdict in the high-stakes trial of Catalan separatist leaders over their role in a banned independence referendum, two judicial sources told Reuters on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Catalan separatist leader Oriol Junqueras gets documents from his lawyer Andreu van den Eynde at the start of their trial at Supreme Court in Madrid, Spain, February 12, 2019. Picture taken February 12, 2019. Emilio Naranjo/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

The ruling could reignite tension over a Catalan secessionist push two years ago which triggered the country’s worst political crisis in decades, and further complicate Spanish politics in the run-up to the fourth national election in four years.

One source said Monday was the most likely date for the much-awaited verdict; the other said that it could also be delayed to Tuesday or Wednesday.

The 12 Catalan politicians and civic leaders are facing charges ranging from rebellion to sedition and misuse of public funds.

The charges stem from their role in a 2017 referendum, held despite being deemed illegal by Spanish courts, and Catalonia’s short-lived declaration of independence that followed.

Separatist parties have called for massive but peaceful civil disobedience if the leaders are not acquitted.

One prosecutor said during the trial that the leaders knowingly attempted a “coup d’etat” against Spain. The 12 said they did nothing wrong and insisted they were prosecuted for their political ideas.

In February, the Supreme Court said it was Spain’s most important trial since the country returned to democratic government in the 1970s.


A key factor in the ruling will be whether the Supreme Court judges consider that protests associated with the referendum and independence declaration were violent, and if the separatist leaders encouraged protesters to commit acts of violence.

The public prosecutor has sought the longest prison term, 25 years, for Oriol Junqueras, who as a former deputy leader of the Catalan regional government ranks as the highest-profile defendant.

Others include Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, who were the leaders of grassroots groups Assemblea Nacional Catalana and Omnium Cultural.

The wife of jailed separatist leader Raul Romeva said she was hopeful he would be acquitted and called for an amnesty if the verdict goes against him.

Diana Riba told Reuters there was no evidence to justify the years her husband had already spent in jail and he should not be sentenced to further imprisonment.

The ruling, and the response in Catalonia, come at a sensitive time for Spain ahead of a general election on Nov. 10.

FILE PHOTO: Catalan separatist leaders appear in court at the start of their trial at Supreme Court in Madrid, Spain, February 12, 2019. Picture taken February 12, 2019. Emilio Naranjo/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Opinion polls suggest the vote is unlikely to break the stalemate between the main right and left-wing parties, but the situation in Catalonia could influence the outcome.

The secession movement in the wealthy northeastern region has been largely peaceful, but with the verdict imminent authorities are bracing for protests that could turn violent.

Spain’s Interior Ministry has deployed police reinforcements to Catalonia while Madrid warned it was ready to take direct control of the region, as it did in 2017.

Reporting by Madrid newsroom, Jose Elias Rodriguez, Emma Pinedo; Writing by Ashifa Kassam; editing by Ingrid Melander, Giles Elgood, Larry King

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