Catalan separatist leaders accused of rebellion for trying to make their region independent from Spain have launched their defence at the start of a long-awaited trial.

Sitting on benches in the ornate chamber of Madrid's Supreme Court, defendants faced a row of judges in proceedings, which were broadcast live on television.

Twelve defendants are in the dock over an independence referendum, held on October 1, 2017, in defiance of a court ban, and a short-lived declaration of independence.

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