Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Catalan separatist leaders went on trial Tuesday before the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid, where they face charges stemming from Catalonia's failed bid for independence in 2017.
Attorneys for the 12 defendants are expected to argue over the evidence presented at trial and determine if there are needs to delay or postpone the proceedings.
The Supreme Court ruled last year the Catalan leaders should face trial for rebellion, embezzlement or disobeying the state for the October 2017 independence referendum.
"I am walking in with my head held high, convinced that self-determination is not a crime," Jordi Sànchez, former president of the Catalan National Assembly, tweeted.
Sanchez and eight others are accused of rebellion and could receive up to 25 years in prison. He is being tried on those charges with former Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras, former Parliament speaker Carme Forcadell and activist Jordi Cuixart. Three others are charged with sedition and the misuse of public funds.
Catalonia, located in the northeast if Spain's Iberian peninsula, has been an autonomous part of the country since the 15th century, but separatists argue it has its own distinct language and culture and that independence is the only way to protect that heritage. Barcelona, home of the 1992 Summer Olympic Games, is in Catalonia.
Spanish authorities are trying Sànchez for his role when protesters vandalized Civil Guard patrol cars and prevented law enforcement officers from investigating referendum materials in September 2017.
Catalan premier Quim Torra and regional parliament speaker Roger Torrent appeared at Tuesday's hearing to support the accused. The Catalan National Assembly called for workplace stoppages to protest the trial.
Last November, Spain's Court of Auditors ordered former Catalan leaders to repay $5.6 million for an earlier independence referendum that happened in 2014. Spanish officials ruled that the referendum was an illegal vote as well.