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    Former Catalan President Artur Mas and former regional councilors Joana Ortega and Irene Rigau gesture to a crowd of people waving Catalan Estelada flags as they arrived to court in Barcelona, Spain, February 6, 2017

    Thousands Rally at Spain's Catalonia Court Amid Trial Over Independence Vote

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    Thousands of people participated in demonstation in Barcelona amid trial of former premier of Catalonia and his two top aides, accused of giving a go-ahead to the Catalonia's independence referendum despite a ban by the Spanish Constitutional Court.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Thousands of people have rallied on Monday in Barcelona amid trial of former premier of Catalonia and his two top aides over an informal independence vote held in 2014, local media reported Monday.

    According to the El Pais newspaper, people gathered near the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia, waiting for former Premier Artur Mas, ex-Deputy Prime Minister Joana Ortega and ex-Education Minister Irene Rigau to appear.

    Former officials are accused of giving a go-ahead to the independence referendum despite a ban by the Spanish Constitutional Court. Mas, in particular, might face a ten-year ban from public office in case of found guilty.

    Catalonia, a Spanish province with an autonomous status, has long sought independence from Spain, but Madrid has repeatedly declined Catalonia’s quest for independence. On November 9, 2014, about 80 percent of the Catalans who took part in the non-binding referendum on the region's status as part of Spain voted in favor of Catalonia becoming an independent state. Madrid declared the referendum unconstitutional.

    On October 6, the Parliament of Catalonia approved a resolution urging the independence vote to be held no later than September 2017. The Spanish authorities protested the resolution in Spain's Constitutional Court that suspended it. Following the ruling, region's President Carles Puigdemont said Catalonia would continue preparations for the referendum despite the court's decision.

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