Chris Bambery – Half-truths, Lies, and Guardia Civil Lies

Chris Bambery sums up a week in which members of the Spanish Guardia Civil testified in the trial against Catalan leaders.

Chris Bambery is author and broadcaster. Co-author (with George Kerevan) of Catalonia Reborn: How Catalonia Took on the Corrupt Spanish State and the Legacy of Franco (Luath Press, June 2018)

BRAVE NEW EUROPE is probably the independent international medium that has covered the Catalan Independence movement the most. It has provided the Catalan cause a platform to communicate with the rest of Europe, as well as posted many original articles on the topic. If this is the sort of media you wish to read and support, then please donate  here.

Along with charges of rebellion and sedition all 12 of the Catalan leaders on trial in the Spanish Supreme Court in relation to the Catalan independence referendum in October 2017 also face the charge of misusing public funds.

Yet a former high-ranking member of Spanish treasury was unable to confirm if public money was used for referendum.

Felipe Martínez- was the deputy secretary of the Spanish finance ministry at the time. He told the court  that the Finance Ministry “put all the elements in place” to ensure public money was not used to fund the referendum, but that he could not confirm “what actually happened.”

In the run up to the referendum and after the Spanish Constitutional Court had declared it illegal the Spanish finance ministry took control of the Catalan Government’s finances,  “all aspects of public funding of the Catalan government were sent to the Spanish executive,” Martínez confirmed.

He added that they had made specific requests to the Catalan Government about possible “expenses related to the referendum” and international observers.

The first of dozens of officers from the Civil Guard (the Spanish paramilitary police) to give evidence talked about the police occupation of the Catalan Government buildings on 20 September 2017, designed to stop planning for the referendum. He told the court that he “would not say” that the rallies against the raids were “festive, ” instead saying there was “a siege of the economy and foreign affairs ministries. ”  When he left the Catalan finance ministry, he and his colleagues were verbally insulted. He then admitted they had no problems leaving the site.

He added that Spanish Police found a document entitled ‘War and guerrilla scenarios’ while raiding the former Catalan Finance Secretary’s home and office

The testimony by his colleagues who followed him on that Tuesday was more forthright in claims that they met a violent response on the day of these raids. Proving that is central to making the charges of rebellion stick against the 12 defendants, particularly Jordi Cuixart, President of Omnium, and Jordi Sànchez, then President of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC).

The Civil Guard officer in charge of the police raid and occupation of the Catalan Foreign Affairs Department said that the protests outside turned “violent” and “aggressive” as they went on, adding that they began half an hour after the Spanish police occupation stating that:

“We decided to evacuate the judicial secretary. If that tumult broke into the department, the consequences could have been catastrophic.”

He added that he was “shocked’ by faces of protesters who were “hitting” police car windows:

“They reflected violence. These were not normal faces, they were angry faces.”

After he arrested a Catalan Foreign Affairs official he claimed protesters tried to rescue him:

“I’ve never seen civilians show such a lack of respect for police that they should even try to take a detainee from them.”

Regarding Jordi Sànchez who along with Jordi Cuixart has been in jail awaiting trial since October 2017, the officer claimed that Sànchez “wouldn’t allow” police cars sent to occupy the Ministry of Economics to reach their destination.

Asked about the attitude of the Catalan police he said they simply looked on.

Defence lawyers accused the officers of giving false testimony and that the prosecution’s questions should not have been allowed.  The second officer was asked to describe the flags of Omnium (Òmnium Cultural is a Catalan cultural non-governmental organisatio ). which he had said he saw at the protests. His description sparked faces of disbelief among the defendants and their defence team. Another protest was that one Civil Guard witness kept referring to events such as raids he was not present at, implying much information had been shared by officers.

Above all the defence team complained about the judge’s refusal to show videos of the actual events the officers referred to.

The judges rejected the defence’s complaints.

After that a fourth officer repeated the claim that Catalan Police were passive and also that protesters were aggressive and some had even tried to run over Spanish Police with their cars.

One officer described how protesters sat down and linked arms which suggests protesters were following Ghandi’s example rather than that of Michael Collins. The Civil Guards also complained children were at the front of the protest.

On the Wednesday Civil Guard sergeant S51761E appeared as a witness. He had examined Jordi Cuixart’s emails and testified that among them was one from Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola which discussed the need to create international support.

When the sergeant was asked by defence lawyer Benet Salellas why this email was of importance the sergeant relied that it “could have interest for what was being investigated: malfeasance, misuse of public funds…”.

No emails relating to the organisation of the referendum were found Cuixart’s emails. He also said that Jordi Sànchez did not  send any emails inciting violence. He did mention an email Sànchez received mentioning “violent scenarios” caused by “the far-right and pro-independence armed groups,” but later stated that of the 22 emails included in the case from Sànchez’s inbox, none were sent by him.

The lawyer also asked about a reference the officer had made of Marta Rovira Martínez, asking if the agent knows who she is. The reply was:

“I know who she is, what she looks like, but I couldn’t say if she was from the ANC, Òmnium Cultural or ERC [Left Republican Party of Catalonia].”

Marta Rovira Martínez is in fact a sociologist, author and Director of the Congress of Catalan Culture. Marta Rovira Vergès was at the time Secretary General of the ERC (she is now in exile in Switzerland),

Salellas pointed out that email cited clearly said  she was secretary general of the ERC; the agent was unsure of the detail. “Is she the same person as Marta Rovira Vergès?”, the lawyers asked, giving the actual name of ERC’s secretary general. “I don’t know”.

Another Civil Guard officer described a raid on a warehouse in Bigues i Riells, where Spanish police seized 10 million ballot papers.  He stated that the “attitude of protesters totally hostile” and that as the Civil Guard left with the ballot papers they threw bottles and cans and “blockaded the police vehicles.”  But he then admitted that “fortunately there were no personal injuries”  just “damage to vehicles.”

This witness then added:

“The officers who lived through the Basque conflict told me its beginnings were similar to [the September 2017 Catalan pro-referendum protests]. The people, the faces of hatred…”

Yet he when asked he admitted he had never worked on any operation in the Basque Country during the military campaign of ETA.

On Thursday morning another Civil Guard officer who took part in the raid on the Unipost postal depot service, seizing boxes of envelopes with the Catalan government logo, containing letters informing citizens they had been picked as polling station officers

He said that outside the depot “some 500 protesters” were “yelling” at the agents and “insulting” them. Adding that; “For the first time in my professional career I saw the reflection of hatred.”

Almost instantly videos of the incident were put up showing good humoured protesters sitting down in front of the police vehicles, singing, waving flags and carnations.

One of the Civil Guards  who went to the polling station  school at Sant Andreu de la Barca in Barcelona on 1 October 2017 in order to shut it down and seize ballot boxes and ballot papers, said that inside the school, they faced an “impassable [human] wall” of people sitting on the ground, holding arms. “They were recording us and one said: ‘Everyone quiet, don’t say anything’,” he narrated. He said there were some 300 people blocking the voting area.

“When we reached the voting point, we didn’t find ballot boxes. We only found envelopes and voting slips.”, adding :

“It’s stayed with me how they looked at me… I don’t know if it was through disdain or hatred, but no one had ever spat at me for doing my job”

Later, questioned by a defence lawyer  the officer confirmed that he had not been physically accosted, only insulted and spat at, and that they were able to enter and leave with the materials they seized without any problems, no-one trying to seize them back.

You can watch on YouTube film of the Civil Guards in action when they raided the Sant Andreu de la Barca polling station. You can judge why it might not be allowed to be shown in court.

The charges of rebellion and sedition require the prosecution to prove that a violent uprising took place in September and October 2017 or that one was planned by members of the Catalan Government and the two biggest civil movements, the ANC and Omnium.

Interviewed on the Wednesday of last week Jordi Sànchez was adamant that the witnesses so far had failed to offer proof of that.

Either the Catalan independence movement and Government is responsible for a massive campaign of “fake news” or the footage after footage of non-violent protests in September and October 2017 were frauds or what hundreds of thousands witnessed and millions more saw on TV and social media is true. The verdict in this Supreme Court trial rests on which version of events the judges choose.  If they choose the former there is no further court to which the defendants can appeal in Spain. Matters will then proceed in Strasbourg.

BRAVE NEW EUROPE is probably the independent international medium that has covered the Catalan Independence movement the most. It has provided the Catalan cause a platform to communicate with the rest of Europe, as well as posted many original articles on the topic. If this is the sort of media you wish to read and support, then please donate  here.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.