By Greg Russell
OBSERVERS at the trial of Catalan independence leaders have again voiced concerns over the refusal by presiding judge Manuel Marchena to allow defence lawyers to use video footage from the October 2017 referendum in their cross-examination of police witnesses.
In their report yesterday, the team from International Trial Watch (ITW) said: “This limitation has had particularly worrying effects this week.”
They said that in their statements, National Police officers had repeatedly used language to “artificially construct” a narrative of crowd hostility and resistance, but denied the “disproportionate use of force”.
“Not being able to confront the witness statements … with the recorded images of the events prevents possible contradictions from arising and, therefore, has direct effects on the assessment of the evidence by the court,” they said.
“Despite the fact that the president of the chamber [Marchena] insists, again and again ... that the videos will be seen at a later time, the delayedviewing will make them lose the evidentiary capacity with which they had been proposed ...
“[Marchena’s] refusal to accept questions about whether the citizens gathered before the voting centres legitimately exercised their fundamental rights stands out.
“From which it could be inferred that the court tends to listen only to the account of the violence … based on the statements of the agents of the state security forces.”
The observers said there was a question of the Supreme Court’s “objective jurisdiction” to prosecute the facts of the case, which was, “a violation of the right to the presiding judge by law, taking into account that it is a tribunal created ad hoc for this process, against whose decisions it is not possible to file an ordinary appeal”.
In the trial itself, in its last week before the Easter break, a senior Civil Guard officer, who was involved in drawing up the case against the leaders, implicated former speaker of the Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell, saying she was “the channel for passing [independence] laws”.
The officer said then Catalan police chief, Josep Lluis Trapero, was “an essential figure in the pro-independence strategy”, and added: “The referendum had to be done in order to take the next step – declaring independence.”
He pointed the finger at former Catalan government official Josep Maria Jove – right-hand man of ex-vice president Oriol Junqueras – as a “key point” for their investigation, claiming that evidence seized in a raid on his home suggested he was “the person who had to authorise the expenses to hold the referendum”.
Quoting from seized documents, he added: “Depending on Spain’s response, we’ll adjust the intensity of the conflict.”
Meanwhile, Catalonia’s Public Diplomacy Council (Diplocat) is being “reactivated” after the Spanish government closed it down when it imposed direct rule after the declaration of independence.
Diplocat said it would internationalise the festival of patron saint St Jordi next week, during which a group of journalists from European publications – including The National – would experience a celebration of love and books.
Laura Foraster, its secretary general, said in this latest phase of operation, Diplocat would continue being “plural, far-reaching, and at the service of internationalisation”.
The Spanish Justice Minister, Dolores Delgado, warned that the executive would be paying attention to Diplocat’s activities, watching for activities that could go beyond “that which is legally allowed”.
She threatened they were considering “possible misuse of public funds”.