Catalan separatist leaders accused of rebellion for trying to make their region independent from Spain launched their defence yesterday at the start of a long-awaited trial.
Sitting on benches in the ornate chamber of Madrid's Supreme Court, the defendants faced a row of judges and a Spanish flag in proceedings broadcast live on television.
Twelve defendants are in the dock over an independence referendum, held on October 1, 2017, in defiance of a court ban, and a short-lived declaration of independence.
Nine of them are charged with rebellion and three face lesser charges of disobedience and misuse of public funds.
The independence bid sparked Spain's deepest political crisis since the transition to democracy in the 1970s after the death of dictator Francisco Franco.
"This case targets political dissidence," said Andreu Van den Eynde, the lawyer for two defendants including Catalonia's former vice president Oriol Junqueras, who could face up to 25 years in jail.
The lawyer accused authorities of violating the defendants' fundamental rights.
Spain has been forced to defend its judiciary against criticism.
In a rare move, Spanish embassies in several European capitals and further afield briefed reporters on Monday and Tuesday, handing out a file entitled "12 falsehoods about Spain" to refute common separatist claims such as the lack of impartiality of all judges.