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Catalan separatists trial: not just legal battle, media one too

AFP  |  Madrid/Barcelona 

The trial on Tuesday of 12 Catalan leaders over their role in Catalonia's failed independence bid will be fought between and the separatists in the international media as much as in the courtroom.

"We have to use this trial as a tool of denunciation, use it in our goal to make independent," the group ANC, Elisenda Paluzie, said before the start of the trial at on February 12.

The separatists who govern the wealthy northeastern region have for years tried to convince the world of the legitimacy of their cause and make the case that lacks political freedoms.

But with over 600 journalists from 150 from around the world accredited to cover the trial, Spain's central government does not want to remain on the sidelines.

The foreign ministry has set up an office charged with promoting Spain's image abroad, called

It announced before the start of the trial that it would launch its own campaign to counteract the "baseless attacks by the independence movement".

"Our work is going to focus on dismantling with solid arguments and proven facts the fake about this trial," a for told AFP.

The department recently released on a video called "This is the Real Spain", which is subtitled in English, that highlights Spain's freedoms and its high ranking in an annual report published by human rights watchdog

The video features the of Spanish giant Santander, Ana Botin, and the of the OECD, Mexico's Jose Angel Gurria, who lists Spain among the world's "most open and developed countries".

The arrival in power in June of marked a change in Madrid's strategy.

The previous conservative government of was largely passive in the face of the separatists' international campaign.

But Sanchez's - a Catalan who fiercely opposes independence - and his team spare no efforts to refute their arguments.

"We are starting a completely different chapter," the said, adding the posture of the had "a very high cost in terms of misinformation".

Officials from Spain's justice ministry and the also met with foreign correspondents based in before the trial.

And on Thursday Sanchez defended Spain's judiciary during a visit to the Council of and the in in

Many separatists are convinced that their leaders were jailed for political reasons and will not have a fair trial. And they see the central government's push as proof of this.

"If the is forced to carry out a campaign of marketing and misinformation, that means they feel insecure," Alfred Bosch, in charge of foreign affairs in Catalonia's regional government, said during a recent visit to

The will respond to Madrid's campaign by explaining "the truth....about a trial which is a political trial" and ease the work for foreign journalists and observers so they "reach their own conclusions", he added.

Catalonia's public television will offer coverage of the trial in English to give it an "international dimension".

Grassroots separatist organisations and Omnium Cultural are preparing their own information campaigns targeting an international audience which include videos made in several languages and meetings in cities across

The lawyers of several of the defendants, who face long prison sentences if convicted, have demanded the presence of international observers at the trial.

But the request was turned down by the Supreme Court, which argued this would not be needed since the trial will be open to the public and it will be broadcast live on television and online.

Despite this, six Catalan associations have set up a platform called "International Trial Watch" that will try to bring foreign observers to the court even if they are there as ordinary members of the public.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, February 10 2019. 09:25 IST