SPAIN’S Supreme Court is set to try 18 leading pro-Catalan independence figures early next year after announcing its investigation into last year’s secession referendum and declaration was now complete.
The court said last week 18 of the accused, including Cataluña’s former Vice President Oriol Junqueras, would stand trial on rebellion and disobedience charges in 2019.
They have also been charged with misappropriate public money to stage the referendum.
The court’s announcement comes as both Spain’s Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister suggested last week the charge of rebellion was not appropriate for the case.
The 18 people set to go on trial include Junqueras and former Cataluña Generalitat officials Joaqium Forn, Jordi Turull and Raul Romeva.
The ex-speaker of the Catalan Parliament Carme Forcadell is also due to appear before the court. Nine of the 18 accused remain in custody ahead of the trial.
The court has ruled the 18 accused and seven others, including former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, played an “essential” role in staging the independence referendum and declaration in October 2017. Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled prior to the vote that holding it would be illegal.
Puigdemont and others remain abroad after arrest warrants were issued for them in the wake of the referendum.
Prosecution and defence teams are now set to make their submissions to the court, including requests for sentences. The charge of rebellion carries a jail sentence of up to 30 years.
The court said the trial would likely last for three months, with a ruling not due until June.
The news comes as Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and his deputy Carmen Calvo both implied the charge of rebellion may not apply.
Both cited historic parliamentary proceedings and said rebellion charges should only be used in cases involving an attempting overthrow of the state by armed force.
Their comments came after Pablo Casado, leader of the opposition conservative Partido Popular (PP), accused Sanchez of aiding a “coup d’etat” by trying to negotiate with Cataluña’s current pro-independence administration.