The trial was criticised by MEPs from every single political group in the Strasbourg parliament, some of whom mooted the possibility of intervention by Brussels.
Demonstrations – and God knows, I've been on a few – tend to leave me, once they're over, in a state of post-coital sadness, without the perk of there having been any sex (and much less an orgasm). No matter how big and beautiful the demo, once it dissolves, it's difficult not to feel that it's been more or less pointless, not least because the powers that be which most demonstrations target, are past masters in the art of ignoring them. On the 6th of last month, however, a protest took place in Barcelona that was, well, different. To start with, it took place in front of a courthouse at 8.15 on a cold, windy Monday morning, because at that time on that day, the former Catalan president, vice-president and Minister of Education were due to be hauled up in front of a judge, accused of criminal disobedience and breach of trust for having organised a popular consultation on the independence of Catalonia in 2014. Over 2,300,000 people voted, 90% of them in favour of leaving Spain. The central government (according to the journalist Pere Martí, who wrote a book on the subject) was flabbergasted and horrified in equal measure. After all, the Spanish prime minister had been saying to any and all visiting statespeople who were curious about the Catalan situation, that 'the immense majority of Catalans wished to remain Spanish'. The consultation, incomplete though it was (a lot of people didn't bother to vote because it had no legal effects) muddied the image of a happily united España which Spanish leaders have been promoting, in their different ways, for three centuries. Anyway, there we were, 40,000 of us (so said the Municipal Police) pressed together like so many penguins in front of the courthouse, early morning gusts whipping our faces as we waited for the accused to turn up. This start-of-the-week stoicism notwithstanding, many if not most people there, myself included, had never voted for their particular party, and never will, it being a little too conservative for our taste: a sure sign that the independence issue has now gone way, way, way beyond party politics; the slogans most shouted - “We're going to vote!” - and the banners most brandished - “Democracy!'”- concerned the universal principle behind this year's upcoming referendum. The trial was criticised by MEPs from every single political group in the Strasbourg parliament, some of whom mooted the possibility of intervention by Brussels. The Liberal International described the proceedings as a “farce” and Canada declared them democratically unacceptable.
For their part, the Spanish government and media ridiculed the thousands standing in the wind (the Minister for the Interior called us a “circus act”) or claimed that we were “putting illicit pressure” on the judges. By the time you read this, at least some of the knock-on effects of this kangarooish trial will have made the headlines. And more than a few citizens will have fastened their seatbelts for the ride ahead.