The National: International observers critical of Catalan independence court case
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By Greg Russell
SIX international observers at the trial of Catalan pro-independence leaders have criticised the court for allowing some of the defendants’ rights to be ignored.
In their report into the first week of the trial, which resumes today, they said members of the extreme-right Vox party were in charge of organising the crowds attempting to get into the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid.
On the second day following a number of complaints, the police took over that task, but the observers said that strengthened their earlier call for space to be set aside for them.
The group said the charges faced by the politicians and activists did not take into account that their actions could be protected by fundamental rights – such as freedom of expression, association and assembly – in which case the defendants would have committed no crime. Prosecutors also minimised the severity of injuries sustained by would-be voters as a result of police violence during the October 2017 referendum and said the group introduced new “facts” as they questioned the accused at the start of the trial.
The observers pointed out that the court’s refusal to suspend the trial to allow defence lawyers access to all available documentation, could be detrimental to the accused, although they would continue watching to see if it affected the defence case.
SNP MP Douglas Chapman, who was an international observer at the referendum, said the “show trial” should be dissolved.
“Whether Catalonia becomes independent is a matter for Catalonians to resolve, but they should have the right to decide for themselves and not have their democratically elected politicians put into jail or convicted by a court where they have done nothing wrong other than represent the views and demands of their constituents,” he said.
“The show trial must be dissolved, and the Spanish Government must find a way to restore the issue of the Catalan self-determination in a much more respectful and non-violent manner.”
Catalan President Quim Torra and his predecessor Carles Puigdemont, meanwhile, last night hosted a gathering in a Brussels hotel after European Parliament chief Antonio Tajani blocked a bid for them to use one of the institution’s offices, citing “security threats”.
Earlier yesterday, Torra and his foreign minister Alfred Bosch were refused permission to use officers from the Catalan police force, Mossos d’Esquadra, for protection on their Belgian trip.
The Spanish Government has to give permission for law enforcement officers to work abroad and, despite this being an official trip, it vetoed their request.