The President of Catalonia’s regional government went on trial in Barcelona on Monday for “disobedience” after refusing to remove separatist symbols from public buildings, amid heightened tensions in the Spanish region.
Prosecutors have called for Quim Torra to be declared ineligible for public office for 20 months, which would make it impossible for him to remain president of the wealthy region.
His trial comes after Spain’s Supreme Court on October 14 sentenced nine Catalan separatist leaders to lengthy jail terms over an abortive 2017 independence bid, setting off a wave of angry protests that repeatedly descended into violence.
In March, Spanish electoral authorities ordered Torra to remove separatist symbols from public buildings to respect institutional neutrality ahead of parliamentary elections in April.
They objected in particular to a banner outside the Catalonian regional government headquarters that read “Freedom for political prisoners and exiles” next to a yellow ribbon indicating support for the detained Catalan separatist leaders who were sentenced last month.
The Catalan government ignored two deadlines to take the banner down before finally ceding just before a planned police intervention.
Catalonia’s parliament and its regional government are dominated by separatist parties, but the region itself remains deeply divided and the recent crisis has exacerbated the split.