15 d’octubre del 2015

Catalan leader marches to court at head of huge flag-waving crowd

Artur Mas, Catalonia’s president, is accused of abusing his power by holding a symbolic referendum on independence from Spain

Thursday 15 October 2015
Thousands of people waving Catalan flags have rallied in support of the regional president, Artur Mas, as he arrived at court for questioning over last year’s symbolic referendum on secession from Spain.

About 400 pro-independence mayors and independence party leaders joined Mas and his government councillors as he walked to the court in Barcelona at the head of a cheering crowd of about 5,000 people.

Chants of “independence, independence” and “this court does not represent us” rang out as Mas stopped to salute the crowd on the steps of the building.

Mas is accused of grave disobedience, abuse of public funds, prevarication, usurping powers and obstructing justice. If he is tried and found guilty, he could face disqualification from office or up to a year in prison. Two associates are also under investigation.

The investigation was opened after Catalonia went ahead with the referendum on 9 November 2014 in defiance of a ruling by Spain’s constitutional court.

In the poll, less than half of those eligible took part, with about 80% of those who did vote in favour of breaking away from Spain.

Mas headed the “Together for Yes” pro-independence alliance that won the most seats in a regional election last month, but fell short of a majority. The election was billed as a de-facto vote on secession.

The alliance is negotiating with another pro-independence party to try to form a coalition majority, and Mas has promised to set Catalonia on a path towards independence by 2017 if he achieves a majority.

The pro-independence groups garnered 48% of the vote against 52% for parties opposed to independence. Spain has ruled out any possibility of secession for Catalonia. Polls show Catalans overwhelmingly support the right for a secession referendum but are evenly divided over independence.