Catalan ex-president to go on trial for holding independence vote

Former Catalan President Artur Mas and two other officials are to testify before court for holding an independence vote in 2014 which Madrid deemed illegal. Catalonia’s Supreme Court has rejected the defendants’ appeals against the decision.

Catalonia’s Supreme Court (TSCJ) dismissed the appeals of former Catalan President Artur Mas, former Vice-President Joana Ortega and former Catalan Minister of Education Irene Rigau which they filed against the investigating magistrate’s decision to continue with the prosecution process, Catalan News Agency reported on Thursday. The defendants have been accused of disobedience to the Supreme Court and of administrative prevarication.

TSCJ said that when holding the referendum two years ago on Catalonia’s independence the defendants either kept “taking actions contrary” to the orders of the Constitutional Court or “omitted the actions necessary for their compliance.”

According to the interlocutory statement by the TSCJ, Artur Mas chose to go ahead with the vote ignoring a “clear and comprehensible” order from the Constitutional Court urging the suspension of the non-binding referendum. TSJC also said that the Catalonia government had organized the vote “without competences” citing “disobedience to a Constitutional Court communication.”

In June, Spain’s Constitutional Court recommended that Mas and two other officials face trial for overstepping their authority after they held a mock Catalan independence referendum in November 2014, despite the court placing a ban on the vote taking place. Over 80 percent of those who voted in the mock referendum wanted Catalonia to gain independence from Spain.

READ MORE: 80% of Catalans say 'Yes' to independence in symbolic ‘referendum’

The Spanish government in Madrid has adamantly ruled out the possibility of Catalonia’s independence. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said that Catalonia’s secession would be illegal. Catalonia's pro-independence roadmap that passed by the regional parliament after pro-separatist leaders won the majority of seats last year was suspended by Spain’s constitutional court in August.

The fact that Mas is to stand a trial shows once again just how “the Spanish state is allergic to democracy,” Anna Arque from European Partnership for Independence told RT. The central government is “against any kind of participation of Catalans and [their] self-determination,” she said.

READ MORE: Spanish court suspends Catalonia’s independence roadmap

“We have now an independent government …and we do have the majority of the members of the Catalan parliament in favor of independence. On top of that, what we have is an 80 percent of the Catalan society that want to have a binding referendum for self-determination…”

“We are profoundly democrats and we believe in universal right of self-determination,” Arque added.

On September 11, Catalonia’s national day, some 800,000 people took to the streets across Catalonia in support of a split from Spain which local leaders want to implement in 2017 despite of fierce opposition from the central government.