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Catalan ex-president in court for vote on independence

Catalan ex-president in court for vote on independenceFormer Catalan president Artur Mas went on trial in Spain, causing thousands of supporters to fill the streets outside a court in Barcelona on Monday, according to BBC.

He is accused of involvement in the Spanish region's unofficial vote on independence in November 2014. Mas is facing accusations of serious civil disobedience after the vote went ahead in defiance of Spain's constitutional court.

Prosecutors are calling for him to be disqualified from office for 10 years.

It is the first time that a leader of the Catalan government has gone on trial. Artur Mas will appear with two former associates.

Mas, his deputy Joana Ortega, and Catalan former education minister Irene Rigau face accusations ranging from disobedience and perverting the course of justice to misuse of public funds.

Large crowds appeared outside the court in Barcelona on Monday chanting "You are not alone" and "Independence".

The case is being used by pro-independence supporters to galvanise their campaign, and the current government has promised to hold a new vote in September.

The 9 November 2014 vote, which was not binding, went ahead despite vehement opposition from the national government and it was outlawed by Spain's constitutional court.

Catalan officials say more than 80% of those who voted backed independence, however only two million voters out of an estimated 5.4 million who were eligible took part.

On Sunday, Mas told a news conference in Barcelona that the Catalan government was "determined to go forward".

"We did what had to be done in 2014 and we would do it again if the circumstances allow it," he said.

Current Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said that "the countdown" had begun for an independent Spanish state in Catalonia.

Like other regions in Spain, Catalonia already has the power to run its educational and healthcare systems, as well as limited freedoms in the area of taxation.

Catalonia is one of Spain's richest and most highly-industrialised regions, and also one of the most independent-minded.

With a distinct history stretching back to the early Middle Ages, many Catalans think of themselves as a separate nation from the rest of Spain.
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