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 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.

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.”