Prosecuting these peaceful advocates of the ballot box marks yet more of the authoritarianism we saw on referendum day

• Carles Puigdemont is the former Catalan president

The most important political trial in Catalonia’s recent history is about to begin in Madrid. The trial is against members of the former government of Catalonia, the speaker of the Catalan parliament at that time and the leaders of Catalonia’s two largest pro-independence civil society groups.

These individuals will be prosecuted for having organised Catalonia’s referendum on self-determination on 1 October 2017. The charges, brought by the public prosecutor’s office and by the far-right Vox party representing the private accusation, are among the most serious of those envisaged by the Spanish criminal code: rebellion, misappropriation of public funds and civil disobedience.

Related: Thousands protest in Madrid before trial of Catalan separatists

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