MADRID Ė Three leading figures behind the independence movement in Spainís northeastern region of Catalonia appeared on Thursday at the countryís Supreme Court to face questions from a judge in charge of investigating allegations of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds lodged against the trio.
Two leaders of pro-Catalan independence institutions, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, and the former regional interior minister Joaquim Forn, all currently in pre-trial detention in Madrid, faced cross-examination from Pablo Llarena, the Spanish Supreme Court judge handling the case.
Cuixart told Llarena that any independence movement in Catalonia must be conducted in accordance with the Spanish Constitution and downplayed the legal importance of the Oct. 1 separatist referendum, which had been banned by Spainís judiciary.
Any future vote on the topic would have to be set by the Spanish government, he added.
Cuixart and Sanchez, who presided over Omnium Cultural and the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) respectively, have been held in preventative prison since Oct. 16, just over two weeks after the banned Catalan separatist referendum went ahead in defiance of Spainís judiciary.
Forn was taken into custody on Nov. 2, days after the regional parliament voted in favor of a unilateral declaration of independence.
The detaineesí defense lawyers and several senior figures from pro-Catalan independence parties gathered outside the Supreme Court building in Madrid while the process got underway.
The legal action followed a political stand-off between Madrid and Barcelona that edged Spain close to a constitutional crisis as Catalan politicians launched their secessionist bid.
The independence declaration at the end of Oct. 2017 was ruled unconstitutional by the Spanish state and prompted the government to enact a constitutional mechanism that restricted Catalan autonomy, sacked the entire regional government, dissolved the parliament and called fresh elections.
The former Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, and his ex-vice president, Oriol Junqueras, also face charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.