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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 February 2019

Spain prepares for Catalan trial as government ends negotiations

Twelve prominent members of the independence movement go on trial next week

Spanish deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo: "The situation is stalled". EPA
Spanish deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo: "The situation is stalled". EPA

Spain’s socialist government said negotiations with Catalan separatists had stalled just days before senior members of the independence movement go on trial.

Twelve prominent Catalan separatists face charges including rebellion and sedition next week over the regional parliament’s declaration of independence in 2017 in a trial that is likely to reignite bitter feuds within the country.

The government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez had tried to ease tensions by offering talks to the Catalans – but the move was greeted with outrage by political opponents who said the premier was giving in to the “blackmail” of the separatists.

Madrid ended any immediate prospect of talks on Friday saying that separatist leaders were asking the government to agree an independence referendum, something which Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said would “never be acceptable”.

"For the moment the situation is stalled,” she said.

Right-wing Spanish parties responded to the overtures by calling for a protest on Sunday against the government in Madrid, just two days before the start of the trial.

Carles Puigdemont, the leader of the failed secession bid in 2017 who is in exile in Brussels and not on trial, said that Spain will seek “vengeance” rather than justice at the trial.

The vote for independence was won by a large margin in an October 2017 referendum but those in favour of being part of Spain largely snubbed the vote.

Spain’s central government declared the vote illegal and subsequent regional elections suggested that the region was evenly split between parties in favour and against independence.

Updated: February 8, 2019 09:36 PM

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