A Year Later: An Update on the Catalonian Independence Movement

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On Monday, October 1, 2018, over 180,000 demonstrators marched in Barcelona to mark the one-year anniversary of Catalonia’s fiercely contested 2017 referendum on independence from Spain. Ninety percent of voters in that referendum backed Catalan independence. However, the Spanish Constitutional Court suspended the referendum before it was held, and anti-independence voters largely abstained from the ballot. The referendum’s reported turnout was only 43 percent. In the subsequent weeks, the government in Madrid responded to Catalonia’s symbolic declaration of independence (on October 17, 2017) by triggering Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution and moving to suspend Catalan autonomy. Legal questions emerge and remain largely unanswered in the aftermath of the Catalonian independence referendum The resulting constitutional crisis, considered   to be Spain’s “largest political crisis since it began its transition to democracy in 1975,” has seen nine Catalan leaders held—with debatable legality—in pretrial detention. Several other Catalan civic leaders remain in a state of self-imposed exile. The chaotic state of political affairs surrounding Catalan independence since October of 2017 has raised a number of legal questions and presented some concerning answers, or lack thereof. For instance,   have argued that Madrid was guilty of using the European arrest warrant as a tool of political oppression in its attempted extradition of Clara Ponsatí, a Catalan academic and the former head of Scotland’s University of St Andrews’ School of Economics and Finance, on charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds. Spain eventually withdrew the arrest warrant on its own. However, it took a ruling from a German Court to declare that Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan president, could not be extradited from...