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.”

President Puigdemont’s Defense Denounces that “Some People in the EU Parliament don’t Act in Accordance with the Law”

Lawyer Simon Bekaert, one of Puigdemont and Comín’s lawyers, said in an interview for ACN that he hopes that the veto of the two elected MEPs by some members of the EU Parliament is “illegal” and warns that his team is ready to appeal to an instance such as the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) if necessary.

“We are aware that there are forces within the European Parliament and its administration that are trying to prevent that both Puigdemont and Comín from occupying their seats on July 2.” As to whether or not they will wait until day 2 to take legal action at European level, Bekaert merely said: “We will see.”

Whether or not to go to an international body and the legal strategy, he insisted, it will depend “on how the European Parliament reacts or does not react. We hope that they have considered the arguments we have made and that they comply with European law,” he says. In this regard, he emphasizes that it is not only a legal matter, but also one of “credibility and legitimacy.” If Puigdemont and Comín cannot occupy their seats, the institution will lose legitimacy as a democratic institution,” he warned, at a time when, according to him, “there are many people who have already lost faith in European institutions.” In any case, he says that if it arrives to the point where they should go to the Luxembourg court they will ask for a “quick resolution” because “there is much at stake.” “It is not a question of Catalonia or independence, but a greater concern: the legitimacy of the European Parliament as an institution and the fact that there are people trying to prevent elected MEPs from taking their seats,” he said.

For the lawyer, European law is “very clear in one thing: that members of the EU Parliament do not represent their country but the citizens who voted for them.” Thus, he recounts, European legislation says “clearly” that the European Parliament “must take into account the results of the elections and based on the results must declare the elected persons as members of the chamber.” In addition, he explains that all the members of the chamber “must act personally and without ties.” In this regard, he considers that the fact that they were obliged to abide by the [Spanish] Constitution “is clearly a violation of these principles.” “There is no other MEP from any other country that has to go to his country to make an oath of loyalty, therefore it is very clear that it is an illegal condition.”

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).

Summary Penultimate Week of Independence Trial: June 4

On Tuesday, the concluding statements from the prosecuting lawyers (at the Supreme Court trial of 12 Catalan political leaders) were heard:

– Spain’s Public Prosecutor affirmed that the 2017 Catalan independence referendum was “a coup d’état.”

– Attorney Javier Zaragoza affirmed that the roadmap to independence, including a referendum and a declaration of independence in 2017, was a violent insurrection, uprising, involving coercion.

It was a serious attack on the foundations of the constitution with illegal, coercive methods, using violence when needed,” he said.

Zaragoza also said that the 9 jailed Catalan leaders were not political prisoners.

There are no political prisoners, they are not political prisoners,” he insisted. He also rejected the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s report urging the “immediate” release of the leaders, accusing the institution of ignoring Spain’s arguments.

– Spanish prosecutor Moreno: “There was violence, it was necessary for their cause, they knew the vote would provoke confrontations, and yet they still called people to vote knowing what would happen.”

– Public Prosecutor Fidel Cadena said that the jailed Catalan leaders should be charged with rebellion because “they violated the constitution and the foundations of the Spanish state.”

– Rosa María Seoane, the Solicitor General, affirmed that the “trial against the Catalan leaders is completely transparent” and denied that their right to defense was undermined during the process.

– The popular prosecutor of the far-right Vox party, accused the political prisoners of perpetrating “the most sophisticated and original coup d’état against a democracy ever seen in a modern society.”

– Javier Ortega Smith, one of the lawyers for far-right Vox, affirmed that the accused were part of a “criminal organization.”

Vox lawyers concluded by saying that they wanted tough sentences “so that no one dares to attack the constitutional order again.”

Additional Information

The trial will resume on Tuesday, June 11, at 9.30am with the closing arguments from the defense lawyers. The lawyers will only have one hour to defend each of the accused.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention calls for the immediate release of the jailed Catalan leaders Jordi Sànchez, Jordi Cuixart, and Oriol Junqueras.

– “Prosecutors are trying to define a new concept of violence” says defense lawyer.

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.