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AP Explains: Catalans appear at ‘trial of century’ in Spain

MADRID - In what is being billed as Spain’s “trial of the century,” a dozen politicians and activists face charges in the Supreme Court over their involvement in Catalonia’s push for independence in 2017.

The trial, which started Tuesday, sees those in the dock facing charges including rebellion and sedition.

The trial is expected to last at least three months. As well as shining a light on the Spanish justice system, the trial’s outcome could set the course for the Catalan secession movement and the tone of national politics for years to come.

HOW DID WE GET HERE?

The charges stem from the Catalan independence referendum on Oct. 1, 2017 that the regional government held in defiance of Spain’s constitutional Court judges, who ruled that the vote was illegal.

Pro-independence Catalan lawmakers in Barcelona declared victory and the region’s independence 26 days later, but received no international recognition. Within hours, then Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dissolved Catalonia’s parliament, removed the region’s president and his Cabinet from office, and transferred their duties to Madrid.

The regional president, Carles Puigdemont, fled Spain with several other regional officials and turned up in Brussels on Oct. 31. Puigdemont avoided extradition after his arrest in Germany when a court there refused to send him back to Spain to face a rebellion charge.

Nine other separatist leaders who remained in Spain and responded to court summons were put in pre-trial detention as flight risks. Three more defendants remained free on bail before the trial.
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