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‘Catalunya 12’ trial adjourned until Thursday after accusation rejects defence case
THE trial of the ‘Catalunya 12’ which began this week has been adjourned until tomorrow (Thursday) morning after today saw the accusation rejecting the arguments of the defence representing the politicians who organised the disputed independence referendum in the region on October 1, 2017.
As well as the prosecution and the State law service, the accusation includes far-right political party Vox, which has gained 12 seats in Andalucía out of 110 this winter and intends to run for local, regional and general elections when these arise.
The first of the accused parties to testify will be former deputy president of Catalunya, Oriol Junqueras, who has been in custody for around 15 months.
Dubbed ‘the biggest court case since the dawn of democracy’ in Spain, the process has gone straight to the Supreme Court, leapfrogging all lower audiences, as is standard practice for politicians at regional and national level.
The defence put forward included ‘violation of human rights’, covering the ‘criminalisation’ of holding a ‘democratic’ vote on ‘self-determination’ and its organisers being held in prison without bail for over a year, as well as calls to invalidate the charges by referring to them as a ‘political circus’, or points-scoring exercise on behalf of those who do not agree with a vote on Catalunya’s secession.
In the run-up to the banned referendum, police raids on printing firms and government offices led to voting slips, information leaflets and ballot boxes being confiscated, and the then national leaders – the right-wing PP – took all referendum-related websites offline.
Chairman of the court Manuel Marchena openly backed the 12 in the dock, saying the entire case was ‘an attack on the right to protest’ by ‘criminalising websites, putting ballots in boxes, chants and gatherings’.
“You can’t make me understand how holding a referendum could be a criminal offence,” he said.
Solicitor Andreu van den Eynde, defending Junqueras and former regional foreign affairs minister Raúl Romeva, said ‘a group of innocent people’ had been ‘kept locked up and away from their children for more than a year’ without trial, and even accused the system of violating the right to religious freedom, since Junqueras was reportedly not allowed to attend mass whilst in jail.
Describing the court case as ‘purely political’, Van den Eynde hit out at the national government for ‘comparing’ his clients with ‘terrorists and Nazis’.
“Who are the only persons banned from exercising their functions when they are awaiting trial? Terrorists. No political rights, and no way out,” he added.
The defence lawyer accused the central government of breaking laws which prevent it from interfering in the process of justice, referring to ‘media campaigns’.
Other defence lawyers cited ‘discrimination’ because of the trial being held in Madrid with Spanish-speaking magistrates, meaning the accused parties could not testify in catalán which, for some of them, is their first language, forcing them to employ interpreters to speak for them.
“I make an effort to express myself in Castilian Spanish, but then I’m not the one facing 16 years in jail,” said solicitor Jordi Pina, acting for former chairman of the Catalunya National Assembly (ANC) Jordi Sànchez, one of the first to be jailed in connection with the referendum – and before it had been held.
The 12 include Jordi Cuixart, ex-leader of Òmnium Cultural, ex-regional minister for the interior Joaquim Forn, minister for presidency Jordi Turull, land and housing minister Josep Rull, minister for work Dolors Bassa, regional Parliamentary chairwoman Carme Forcadell, minister for governing Meritxell Borràs, minister for justice Carles Mundó, and minister for knowledge and business Santiago Vila.
Their charges include rebellion, disobedience, and public fund mismanagement.
Also featuring in the case are former regional president Carles Puigdemont, his four ex-ministers Antoni Comín, Clara Ponsatí, Lluís Puig and Meritxell Serret – all of whom left for Belgium along with Puigdemont days after the referendum, faced two European arrest warrants, and subsequently had these dropped – former Catalunya Left Republican (ERC) leader Marta Rovira, and MP for the CUP Anna Gabriel, who has obtained a five-year residence permit in Switzerland.
They have been declared in contempt of court and may be tried in absentia, in the event they are recalled and do not appear.
So far, Puigdemont has managed to fight off extradition from Germany and has now returned to his rented house in Waterloo, Belgium, and the Scottish authorities refused to extradite Dr Ponsatí, who has now been back in her old job of economics professor at St Andrew’s University for around a year.
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