International Observers Find Violation of Numerous Human Rights and Legal Procedures During the Catalan Independence Trial

The organization of international observers Trial Watch – Catalan Referendum Case (ITW) has concluded in its preliminary report that the trial of the 12 independentist leaders held at the Supreme Court over the past few months is a “political cause” in which “fundamental rights such as free assembly, political participation and freedom of expression have been violated.” The group also considers that there is no basis for condemning political prisoners for rebellion and seditious crimes, and that they have been “reworked” to adapt them to the Criminal Code.

The ITW concludes that organising citizen demonstrations was not capable of “transforming the constitutional order or preventing the legitimate public authority from carrying out its functions,” since in this case a state of siege had been applied. The conclusions of the report also make a special mention of the cases of the former president of the ANC, Jordi Sànchez, the president of Òmnium Cultural, Jordi Cuixart and the former president of the Parliament, Carme Forcadell: “Your behavior cannot be criminal because it was protected in the exercise of fundamental rights, such as the right of assembly or freedom of expression.”

The ITW also considers that the investigation carried out by prosecutor Javier Zaragoza in the National Court on November 5, 2015, has shown that it is a general cause: “The object was to investigate the entire Catalan political movement,” which is forbidden in the Spanish legal system.

More than 30 human rights organizations support the 20 points with which observers summarize the most important violations in the trial. Although not part of the process after the Supreme Court questioned the quality of observers, the group of experts hopes that the judges will accept the criticisms in the report. They also expect their analysis to help the defendants continue their path to European courts after the ruling, which will be known in the coming months.

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Jailed Catalan leader Jordi Cuixart: “The solution to the problem of blind obedience is civil disobedience”

The President of the Catalan grassroots and pro-independence organization Òmnium Cultural, Jordi Cuixart, said on Thursday that “the solution to the problem of blind obedience is civil disobedience.” In a letter that was read during the opening of the first days on civil disobedience organized by the entity, Cuixart explained that in order to reverse the “dramatic” situation that society suffers from, it is necessary to train “even more” and to exercise the practice of non-violence.

“To instruct us is essential because the powerful know how to criminalize the protest and cause dissent by putting us traps,” he argued. From the prison of Lledoners, he told the conference attendees that “we will do it again” and cited “constant, persevering and full of courage mobilization.” “The only battle that is lost is the one that is abandoned,” he concluded at the end of the letter.

Mauri, vice-president of Òmnium, also intervened in the conference to say that injustices in society must give rise to “non-violent civil disobedience.”

“We are in a moment of regression of rights. Civil disobedience is the most useful and legitimate instrument for the situation we are experiencing. Given the situation of the degradation of rights that we suffer in Catalonia, Spain and Europe, we understand that the committed, mobilized and organized citizens have the obligation to face it.”

Mauri emphasized that Cuixart’s phrase “we will do it again […] is not just a slogan, but is a guide for the coming years. All rights are defended by exercising them. We have a duty of citizenship, of civic commitment and moral obligation to defend them when they are violated, tried or condemned.”

The Spanish Judiciary Irregularities and the Protection of Freedoms and Rights

The President of the Spanish General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), Carlos Lesmes, has initiated a marathon of appointments of high judicial positions despite the fact that the council is pending renewal. He has already made the appointment of 13 of the aforementioned positions and plans to do about 25 more before August. The vacancies to renew include the presidency of the National Court and four seats of the Supreme Court.

Elisa Beni denounces in eldiario.es that this situation is unusual and “looks so bad that not only forces to question whether a CGPJ with pending renewal mandate can take these decisions that will tie his successors for five years in a body that will have a majority of progressive sensitivity, but also the anomalous way it is being done.”

She also regrets that “something so serious goes virtually unnoticed by the public as well as some politicians who do not see the seriousness of what is happening.”

The current Spanish judiciary is also currently deliberating on the sentences for the jailed Catalan leaders, who are expected to receive harsh punishments: sentences by up to 30 years in prison, for no apparent reason other than holding a depenalized democratic vote: a self-determination referendum.

Given the aforementioned anti-democratic moves, it’s not surprising that most Catalans support independence. The conclusion is clear: the Spanish authoritarian state is unreformable. Thus, the creation of a new state is a good opportunity for the Catalans to build a most prosperous and fair country where no one is above anyone else and all fundamental rights are respected.

The Independence Trial verdict, expected to be announced between July and October, will be another test of the strength of Spanish “democracy.” Because of several unfair verdicts in the past, the current Spanish Judiciary hasn’t given any reason for optimism – rather the contrary. So, pro-independence forces have the responsibility to find strategic unity leaving aside any kind of partisan division. It will be necessary to articulate a strong, peaceful and democratic response to the verdict in order to defend and protect the freedoms and rights achieved in the past by our parents, grandparents and ancestors.

It is important to remark that this democratic “battle” is not only about independence, but the protection of fundamental rights. These could be curtailed or even entirely eliminated by the Spanish State for many generations to come.

Authoritarianism VS Democracy

It’s still uncertain who will win this struggle, but it’s sure that everyone must choose one option to stand for and that the outcome will mark us as a society for many years to come.

Summary Last Week of Independence Trial: June 11 and 12

June 11, Day 51 of Trial

CLOSING ARGUMENTS OF THE DEFENSE

– Andreu Van den Eynde, representing the former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras and foreign minister Raül Romeva:

I still don’t know when this uprising is taking place. The people did not go out to topple the state, they went to vote and protest. The defendants refused violence, no message where they promote it has been found. However, they have found many messages where the accused defend peace. It’s about knowing if a politician has the right to speak about self-determination. Freedom of expression also protects the opinions that hurt.”

Andreu Van den Eynde also referred to the trial verdict, which is expected to be announced sometime between July and October, as an “opportunity to resolve the conflict by returning the conflict to politics.”

Xavier Melero, representing the former interior minister Joaquim Forn:

The Catalan government breached its own declaration of independence and instead made provisions for the application of Article 155 [the suspension of self-rule in Catalonia]. I am aware that this may annoy some people.”

Lawyer Pina, representing the former ministers Jordi Turull, Josep Rull and Jordi Sànchez

“The passive resistance shown by citizens is incompatible with the concept of a public uprising.”

– Josep Riba, representing the former justice minister Carles Mundó, refuted the charge of misuse of public funds:

“There is no evidence that the Catalan government spent anything on the referendum logistics or ballot boxes.”

 

June 12, Day 52 of Trial

CLOSING ARGUMENTS OF THE DEFENSE 

Marina Roig, representing the President of the grassroots organization Òmnium Cultural, Jordi Cuixart:

“There is no democracy without democracy, and there is no democracy without citizen participation.” 

She also said that “criminalizing public protest can have dangerous consequences for fundamental rights in Spain.”

Olga Arderiu, representing the former speaker Carme Forcadell:

“The prosecutors emphasized in their final reports her role as pro-independence civic organization Catalan National Assembly (ANC)‘s president until 2015 – even though the events she is supposed to be tried for happened in 2017.”

She also complained that her client is facing a 17-year prison sentence for rebellion when the other former Catalan parliament bureau members are being prosecuted for disobedience, which does not carry prison time.

– Former Governance, Public Administration, and Housing Minister Meritxell Borràs’ lawyer rejected the allegations of misuse of public funds and complained of what she described as the prosecutors’ “bias.”

Mariano Bergés, representing the former work, social affairs, and families minister Dolors Bassa: 

“They intended to achieve independence by voting and through dialogue. What happened in September 2017 was not violence. The pro-independence demonstrations were always peaceful. ” 

DEFENDANTS’ FINAL STATEMENTS

Former Catalan Vice-President Oriol Junqueras

“It’s time for the Catalan question to return to the political sphere of dialogue and negotiation, which it should never have left.”

Former Foreign Affairs Minister Raül Romeva

“Today it is us, tomorrow it could be anyone.”

Former Interior Minister Joaquim Forn

“The Catalan question can only ever be resolved through dialogue.”

Former President’s Office Minister Jordi Turull

“Decapitating us will not decapitate the independence movement or the desire for independence and self-determination in Catalonia.”

Former Territory and Sustainability Minister Josep Rull

“Self-determination is simple and transcendental. There will always be more people following us. There are not enough prisons to lock up our desire for freedom.”

Former Leader of the Pro-Independence Organization ANC Jordi Sànchez

“This is an enormous injustice, not only for me and for the other pro-independence prisoners but in general around Spain.”

Former Catalan Parliament Speaker Carme Forcadell

“I’m being judged for who I am, not the facts.”

Former Work, Social Affairs, and Families Minister Dolors Bassa

“Many generations to come will depend on this verdict, which has the potential to provide a solution.”

President of Pro-independence Grassroots Organization Òmnium Cultural Jordi Cuixart

“If police violence could not stop thousands of people from voting in the referendum, does anyone believe that a sentence will cause Catalans to stop fighting for their rights? I would do the same of what I am accused of again. We will do it again!”

Former Business Minister Santi Vila

“The government had been negotiating a possible legal alternative to independence declaration until the last minute.”

Former Governance, Public Administration, and Housing Minister Meritxell Borràs

“New politicians will come and the longing of a sizeable proportion of the Catalan people to decide how we want to fit into a modern Europe will continue.”

Former Justice Minister Carles Mundó

“Taking political issues to the courts does no favors to politics and nor does it help the judiciary”

Additional Information

– The verdict is expected to be announced sometime between the end of July and October.

– A harsh sentence would be seen as a dissuasive punishment for the leaders, and the whole independence camp, which would likely provoke indignation across Catalonia, which could lead to an indefinite general strike or even to a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI).

Catalan Independence Trial: Summary May 27, 28, and 29

May 27, Day 47 of Trial

– The documentary evidence phase started on Monday, showing documents and presenting hundreds of videos from both the defense and the accusation related to what happened during Autumn of 2017.

– Videos were not shown during the witness stage of the trial, and in this documentary phase no commentary on the footage was allowed.

– The evidence shown on Monday included police reports on activities allegedly related to the misuse of public funds and the seizure of material for the referendum.

– The accusation presented videos showing “violence” perpetrated by the voters against the Spanish police.

– The defense presented videos showing the “violence” perpetrated by the Spanish police during the October 1 referendum.

May 28, Day 48 of Trial

– On Tuesday, videos presented by the prosecution team aimed to establish that violence was used in the 2017 independence bid were shown.

– Footage shown in court featured protesters and voters peacefully trying to prevent the Spanish police from entering polling stations during the 2017 independence referendum.

– In many cases the state prosecutor was unable to say where or when the footage had been recorded.

– The prosecutor was often unable to tell the defense lawyers where exactly the video had been recorded, saying that the intention had been to show the “general climate everywhere.”

May 29, Day 49 of Trial

– The defense teams presented their video evidence in court.

– The videos shown in court featured some of the jailed leaders calling for the people to keep a peaceful attitude during the referendum.

– One of the videos featured the jailed Catalan leader Jordi Cuixart openly rejecting “violence and non-democratic behavior.”

– Videos with images of police violence against peaceful voters and protesters at numerous locations across Catalonia were shown.

– The lawyers for the defense were able to identify when and where each of the videos had been filmed.

Additional Information

– The defense will present their summaries on June 10 before the defendants also share their closing remarks.

– The public prosecutor confirmed the charges of rebellion against most of the defendants on trial and requests prison sentences of up to 25 years for organizing a referendum and declaring independence in late 2017.

– The prosecutor requested 17 years in jail for the former parliament speaker Carme Forcadell and for the Catalan leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez.

– The prosecutor requested 16 years in jail for the former Catalan ministers Jordi Turull, Josep Rull, Dolors Bassa, Raül Romeva, and Joaquim Forn.

– The solicitor general’s office requested 7 and 12 years in prison for sedition.

– The private prosecutor representing the far-right party Vox requested 74 years in prison for the former ministers and 62 years for Sànchez and Cuixart.

– Vox reduced its demands regarding Santi Vila, reducing the charges to disobedience, which carries no prison sentence.

Catalan Independence Trial: Summary Most Important Testimonies May 22 and 23

May 22, Day 45 of Trial 

Wednesday’s session started with the testimonies of Catalan government officials and ended with the beginning of the “expert phase.”

Jordi Martínez Soler, a social media advisor for the Parliament, explained that he managed Forcadell’s social media accounts in Autumn 2017 and explained the content of the tweets he tweeted during that time.

Ricard Gené, who was part of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC)’s secretariat at the same time as Carme Forcadell, explained that the role of Forcadell, currently accused of rebellion, was as a ”representative and not an executive.”

Forcadell was not involved in elaborating the ANC’s roadmap,” he said.

– Rosa Maria Sans, who is the head of management of the use of government facilities and equipment by non-profit organizations at the Catalan Department of Labour, Social Affairs and Families, explained how was his work during the 2017 Autumn.

– The expert phase started with the Supreme Court judges overlooking some of the complaints from the defense, who called on the court to dismiss some experts on the grounds that they had not seen their reports before the session, which violated the right of their clients to have a proper defense.

– An expert affirmed that publicity material commissioned for the 2017 referendum was actually produced, whether or not it was later paid for by public money.

If the administration does not pay for something commissioned, an “irregularity” and ‘unjust enrichment are committed’, added the Spanish tax official

NOTE: The tax expert witnesses were all called by the accusation and one of them used to work as an advisor for the former Spanish right-wing government.

John Paul Lederach and Jesus Castañar, experts on mass non-violent movements, gave evidence about the character of the 20 September 2017 protests in front of government ministries following numerous illegitimate raids by the Spanish police. They both affirmed that the protests were an “act of persuasion” and not an act of civil disobedience. They said there was no violence committed against police officers and no attempts to seize public buildings.

May 23, Day 46 of Trial

The day started with the testimonies of experts called by both the prosecution and the defense.

Josefina Valls and Xavier Urios, director of services and chief lawyer at the Catalan governance ministry, said that the ministry didn’t spend money for the referendum.

Pau Villòria, head of the Department of Enterprise during the 2017 referendum, explained that his department did not spend money for the referendum nor did they allow any of their venues to be used for that purpose.

Experts called in by the lawyers of the former Catalan Labour Minister Dolors Bassa said that they could not establish a rental cost for public venues that were used during the referendum since these were not bound by rental contracts.

– Doctors said none of the 60 cases they examined related to Spanish police officers were “serious” injuries. In 32 cases, no treatment was recommended. A further 11 cases were finger sprains. Others involved bruising.

Additional Information

The Spanish Supreme court communicated the defense that the trial of the 12 Catalan pro-independence leaders is set to come to a close on 11 June.

The defense will take the stand for their closing arguments on 10 June, before the defendants make their closing remarks on 11 JuneThe Supreme Court ruled that each of the 12 accused parties will be given 15 minutes to address the court directly before the proceedings are over until the sentencing.

Catalan Independence Trial: Summary Most Important Testimonies May 13 and 14

May 13, Day 43 of Trial

The day started with testimonies from citizens who voted in the 2017 independence referendum followed by a declaration from Mireia Boya, a former MP of CUP party.

– Mireia Boya explained that she participated in the demonstration in front of the Catalan Finance Ministry on September 20, 2017, to protest against the detention of Catalan government officials. “The atmosphere was festive. It was easy to get to the door,” she said.

Boya also explained that she went to “defend” the CUP headquarters the same day when she heard that the Spanish National Police was trying to enter the building without a court order.

– Francesc Esteve, the head of the Catalan government’s legal department, told the court that he was not aware of any irregular payments made by the Catalan government for the referendum.

– Mercè Corretja, head of the Catalan government’s public procurement, said that she searched the public contracts registry several times and she hadn’t found anything related to the referendum. She also said that the Catalan government accounts had been blocked by Spain 15 days prior to the vote.

– Nuria Cuenca, the head of the education department in the Catalan government, told the court that the Spanish police caused damage at schools of €268,000 the day of the referendum.

May 14, Day 44 of Trial

The day was marked by a clash between Judge Marchena and Jordi Cuixart‘s defense counsel, Benet Salellas.

Judge Marchena repeatedly interrupted the witness Marina Garcés whenever she expressed her feelings over the referendum day. “We can’t waste time,” he said.

Judge Marchena: “Your personal opinions are of no interest, even though you would love to keep talking about them.”

Lawyer Benet Salellas protested Marchena’s assessment, noting that the court had been receptive to “the perceptions of witnesses of the referendum when they were police officers.” However,  Marchena suggested he would be glad if Salellas remained quiet during the cross-examination of academic Marina GarcésSalellas then protested and denounced a “continued violation of fundamental rights” and said he would not be asking further questions as a result of the decision. “Much better,” Marchena responded.

Ramon Font, the head of an education trade union, spoke about the initiative to keep schools open with activities during the independence referendum weekend.

Font said that many organizations joined the initiative: “We couldn’t conceive that schools, for us temples of culture and democracy, would remain closed for any state decision.”

Jordi Pesarrodona, a voter of the referendum, said that the Spanish police hit his testicles with batons several times the day of the referendum.

Maria Lluisa Carrillo, a voter of the referendum, said she was thrown to the ground by the Spanish police, who then, broke her pelvis.

Mercé Arderiu, a lawyer at the Catalan parliament, said the order of the day was changed on a 6 and 7 September 2017 plenary session at the request of MPs. She explained speaker Forcadell had no power to prevent this from happening.

Lluis Corominas, a former member of the Catalan Parliament’s Bureau, on the former speaker Forcadell: “All formal necessities were always examined. The president cannot do anything alone.”

Anna Simó, a former member of the Catalan Parliament’s Bureau, said that Forcadell never once used her tie-breaking vote in any parliament decision. “The president of the chamber could not stop the alteration of the agenda. It was up to the parliament,” she said.

Additional Information 

On May 14, the electoral authority stopped jailed leader Junqueras from joining a televised EU election debate, arguing that it was incompatible with the timetable of the prison where the former vice president is being held.

Also on May 14, Catalan speaker Roger Torrent met with the Council of Europe  commissioner for human rights, Dunja Mijatović, to talk about Spain’s “violation of rights and democratic regression.”