Update on Catalan Struggle for Independence from Spain

The Catalonia Trials: Justice or Vengeance

Al Jazeera (2019)

Film Review

This documentary examines the arrest and imprisonment of nine leaders of the Catalan Popular Assembly for holding an independence referendum in 2017. In a region where children were historically forbidden to speak their native tongue (Catalan) in school, the movement for Catalan rights and independence has a long history.

Catalan public opinion is evenly divided over the independence issue. Nearly 50% of the population voted or tried to vote on the 2017 referendum. Most opponents of independence boycotted the ballot. Of the 43% who successfully cast votes, 90% opted for independence.

On the day of the poll, national police raided many polling stations, confiscating ballot boxes and trying to drag voters away.

Following the failed referendum, the Catalan Popular Assembly voted to declare independence and was suspended by the Spanish government. Twelve assembly leaders were arrested and spent 17 months in prison before going to trial. Other leaders, including Carlos Puigemont, the former Catalan president, fled to northern Europe to avoid arrest.

Spain’s center left socialist government, which took power in June 2018 opposes Catalan independence. For some reason, they are allowing members of the right wing Vox party to participate in prosecuting the Catalan leaders.

In April 2019, the socialist government fell, because Catalan members of its governing coalition refused to support their proposed budget. Because the Catalan independence movement is as strong as ever, several of the imprisoned Popular Assembly leaders stood in the new election. Four, who were elected, were let out of jail to take their oath of office before the new government suspended their right to take their seats.

They were also elected (along with two exiled Catalan leaders) to the European Parliament, as well.

Although the trial ended June 12, 2019, the verdict isn’t expected until fall.  See New York Times

All 12 face a potential 17-year sentence for rebellion.

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