Chris Bambery – Spain’s Supreme Court: A Festival of Clowns

Another week and another chapter in the Spanish show trial against Catalan independence leaders by Spain’s Supreme Court. This week was spent trying to find out who the real clowns are – themselves.

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.

Jordi Pesarradona (left) and Clown

Spain’s Supreme Court will allow the five newly-elected Catalan MPs and Senator to attend the opening sessions of the Spanish Parliament so they can be sworn in and attend that initial session.

However the request of the five defendants, who along with seven others, are being held in custody during their trial in the Supreme Court on charges of rebellion and sedition, to be released pending the outcome of the trial, was refused by the Court.

Their lawyers have requested that the Supreme Court seek Parliamentary approval for when the Court sits to hear the case: in other words the hearings be suspended to allow them to attend Parliament. That too was refused.

Sources within the Spanish Parliament have said the five will be brought into the Chamber via an underground car park. Once in the Chamber they will be free to move about, but Spanish police will guard the doors of the Chamber to stop any escape bid or, presumably, accompany them to the toilet or lunch!

Spanish law states that if Parliamentarians are to be tried, the Chamber in which they sit must vote its consent. In this instance the Supreme Court judges made their ruling, claiming that the trial had commenced before the election, thus making the law in this case inapplicable.

Lawyers for the five criticised the decision saying that the Supreme Court had chosen a ‘limited, minimal, and restrictive’ interpretation of their rights and that they will be in the parliamentary chambers ‘only as a formality and to take a picture,’ but not to undertake their parliamentary duties like the other elected MPs and senators, such as addressing the media or taking part in parliamentary groups outside the Chamber.

‘Parliamentary immunity cannot be a privilege, but is a guarantee,’ said Andreu van den Eynde, the lawyer of Oriol Junqueras and Raül Romeva. The former was elected as an MP, the latter as a Senator. Both are members of the centre left Catalan Left Republicans.

Meanwhile, the trial itself resumed on Tuesday and saw a clash between the Presiding Judge, Manuel Marchena and Benet Salellas, the defence counsel for one of the accused, Jordi Cuixart.

The academic, Marina Garcés, had been given testimony about her experience of the 1 October 2017 Catalan independence referendum – which the prosecution wants to portray as a violent rebellion against the Spanish state.

Garcés was repeatedly interrupted by the Judge for making “subjective remarks” such as when she called the October 1 referendum “amazing”.

He told her: “Your personal opinions are of no interest, even though you would love to keep talking about them,”

Judge Marchena intervened again when Garcés gave witness regarding what happened when she went to vote. Cuixart’s lawyer Salellas protested against Garcés’s testimony being dismissed in this way stating that the Court had not acted in such a way regarded “the perceptions of witnesses of the referendum when they were police officers”. He denounced the treatment of Garcés as a “continued violation of fundamental rights” and said he would not be asking further questions as a result of the decision.

The response of Judge Marchena was simply, “That would be much better.”

The trial had resumed on the previous day, Day 43. Spain’s Supreme Court started off this day of the Catalan Trial with the testimonies of referendum voters followed by declarations from former CUP MP Mireia Boya, Head of the Legal Department Francesc Esteve, and Head of Public Procurement Mercè Corretja. The accused who held Government positions at the time of the referendum are accused of misusing public money by funding the referendum. All three witnesses denied any misuse of public funds by the defendants-

The Head of the Catalan Government’s Legal Department Francesc Esteve told the Court that he was not aware of any irregular payments made by the Catalan government for the referendum, and went as far to state that if he had known of any illegal activity he would have warned members of government and informed the judicial authority. In addition he testified that the Catalan Government’s IT Department had shut down 26 of the 27 computer systems at the instruction of the Spanish Courts prior to the referendum.

The Head of the Catalan Government’s Public Procurement, Mercè Corretja, gave testimony that she had personally searched the public contracts registry for any government payments towards the cost of the referendum and that she had found none. She also pointed out that Catalan government accounts had been frozen by order of Spanish Courts 15 days prior to the vote.

Next up was a former MP for the radical left Catalan Popular Unity Party, Mireia Boya, who gave testimony regarding the protests which followed the Spanish Police raid on the Catalan Finance Ministry on 20 September 2017. The Prosecution is keen to portray the protests that took place outside the Ministries as Spanish police raided them, as virtual insurrections orchestrated by two of the defendants, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchéz.

Boya told the Court that she had argued with Sanchéz, then President of the pro-independence Catalan National Assembly, because he wanted the protesters to disperse to ensure there were no clashes with Spanish Police when they left the building. Boya believed people had a right to vent their anger but then agreed with Sanchéz when he argued there would be other opportunities to protest in the days that followed.

The next day, Tuesday, began with the head of an education trade union, Ramon Font, giving testimony regarding the grass roots initiative to keep schools open to the public on referendum day – many were polling stations. Font told the Court: ‘We couldn’t conceive that schools, for us temples of culture and democracy, would remain closed for any state decision.’

Judge Manuel interrupted him several times, on one occasion suggesting to the Witness he might ‘reply with a monosyllable’ to questions.

Following Font came Garcés and after her the lawyer, Lluis Matamala, who at the outset asked to be able to testify in Catalan, a request Marchena denied and ordered the witness to speak Spanish. After a number of exchanges between the Witness and Marchena the Judge threatened to make him leave the courtroom with criminal consequences if he continued to challenge what he had said.

Jordi Pesarrodona achieved widespread publicity because during raids by Spanish police on Catalan Government ministries on 20 September 2017 he stood beside a Spanish police officer guarding the door of one building wearing a clown’s nose! Because of that he was placed under investigation. Currently he is on trial for serious contempt of court also at the Supreme Court. When Pesarrodona was asked if he knew any of the defendants, and replied: ‘Because of the repression, I know them all.’ Witnesses have stressed the complete absence of violence on 20 September. The humour of Pesarrodona’s protest seems lost on the Spanish Judiciary. Pesarrodona also told the Court that on the day of the referendum he was hit in the testicles with batons by Spanish police several times.

In the afternoon session, two voters on 1 October, Maria Lluisa Carrillo and Esther Raya, described their experience that day. Carrillo said Spanish Police threw her to the ground resulting in a broken pelvis. Raya said she witnessed police beating people ‘totally disproportionately.”

The next witnesses gave evidence regarding the decision of the former Speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell, to change the Parliamentary agenda to allow an emergency procedure to pass a bill permitting the independence referendum, which was declared illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court

The former general secretary of the Catalan parliament at the time, Pere Sol, told the Court he didn’t recall any parliamentary proposals being rejected on grounds of unconstitutionality. Asked about his resignation from the post after just a year he cited ‘personal reasons.’

A then lawyer at the Catalan Parliament, Mercé Arderiu, explained that the order of the day was changed on 6 and 7 September at the request of a majority of MPs and that Forcadell had no power to stop this.

Next to testify was Lluis Corominas, who is currently awaiting trial on charges of disobedience for his role in the Catalan declaration of independence which followed the referendum. He defended Forcadell’s actions explaining that: ‘All formal necessities were always examined. The president cannot do anything alone.’ After a recess, Corominas decided to end his testimony.

The final witness Anna Simó, the then first secretary of the Parliament who explained 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. That was up to parliament.’

After just one day the hearing was adjourned until coming Monday while the business of the five defendants attending the opening sessions of the Spanish Parliament coming Tuesday is sorted out.

Meanwhile outside the Supreme Court the Spanish Prosecutor’s Office is seeking charges of organised crime against 28 officials indicted over Catalan referendum, including the Director of the main Catalan language TV station, TV3.

Currently they face charges of misappropriation, dereliction of duty, and disobedience, but now the public prosecutor wants to extend the indictment to include another much more serious crime —belonging to a criminal organization. This rests on the claim that they acted in a coordinated way, with a “hierarchy” and a “distribution of roles” to carry out their “independence plan”.

Who headed this hierarchy? The Prosecutor’s office fingers Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan President, now in exile, and his Deputy, former vice president, Oriol Junqueras, and the other former ministers alongside him on trial in the Supreme Court.

Junqueras is one of the newly elected MPs and both he and Puidgemont are widely expected to be elected to the European Parliament in next week’s elections.

The web of the Spanish State’s prosecutions of Catalan leaders grows wider all the time. But it also clashes increasingly with the democratic will of Catalan voters.

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.


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