A CATALAN minister goes on trial at the Supreme Court in Madrid today accused of helping organise the 2014 independence referendum in the north-eastern Spanish state.

Francesc Homs, a former spokesman for the government of Catalonia and a member of the Madrid parliament, is the latest target in what a leading diplomat describes as “an escalating campaign of intimidation from Madrid” as Mariano Rajoy’s government uses the judiciary to “decapitate the leadership of the independence movement and silence the Catalan people”.

Writing exclusively in The National, Albert Royo, Secretary General of the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (Diplocat), says: “The Spanish Constitutional Court is no place to settle our future fairly. Its judges are appointees of Rajoy’s Popular Party and its president, Francisco Perez de los Cobos, is a former party activist. Catalonia’s people have a right to demand better.”

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Artur Mas, the former president of Catalonia, and two other former ministers went on trial earlier this month for criminal disobedience in organising the non-legally binding poll on whether or not Catalonia should be independent.

Carme Forcadell, the speaker of the Catalan parliament, is awaiting the outcome of her alleged breach of a Constitutional Court order last year for allowing members of parliament to debate independence.

Royo says the timing of Rajoy’s attacks was no accident: “He is doing everything he can to halt the new referendum that we will hold by September this year, which ... will be legal and binding. If the people decide for independence, we will take concrete steps towards establishing Catalonia as a sovereign state in the European Union. Then we can become an equal friend and neighbour to Spain and end all the unnecessary tension and conflict. Despite all the attempts to silence us, we would still welcome the opportunity to sit down and talk to the Spanish government about any aspect of how the voting should be conducted."

Liz Castro, a member of the board of the Catalan National Assembly told The National: “Spain has painted itself into a corner with these trials, evidenced by the way they decided not to charge Joan Josep Nuet this week, because, despite identical votes as independentists in the parliament on holding a referendum, the non-independentist Nuet had ‘different intentions’.

“Once they put you on trial for your intentions, any credibility for their democracy is gone.

“Every time they bring another independentist to court for trying to vote, they convince a thousand more democratic non-independentists that Spain is no democracy at all.”