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Right to defence being undermined, say lawyers

Lawyers defending Catalan independence leaders on trial are increasingly protesting decisions by judges at Spain’s Supreme Court, which they argue undermine their clients’ right to defence.

Several defence teams presented formal complaints earlier in the week against the court’s ban against videos during the cross-examination of witnesses.

Catalan Trial: click here full details of those accused, the charges, and the accusers.

With around 30 police officers in all due to testify about their experience during the 2017 independence referendum and the preceding days, lawyers believe it is ‘essential’ they be able to contradict testimonies with footage of the events.

‘We’re trying to show what happened, but the courtroom’s criteria doesn’t allow us to fully exercise the right to defence by contradicting everything said in order for the truth to prevail,’ alleged Marina Roig, lawyer of activist Jordi Cuixart.

Catalan leaders (from front row right to left) Oriol Junqueras, Raul Romeva, Joaquim Forn, Jordi Sanchez, Jordi Turull, Josep Rull, Jordi Cuixart, Carme Forcadell, Dolors Bassa, Carles Mundo, Santi Vila and Meritxel Borras attend their trial in Madrid on 12 February 2019. (J.J.Guillen / POOL / AFP)

Lawyers also complain about Spanish police officers and other witnesses not showing their faces, which they allege undermines defendants’ presumption of innocence.

Courtroom president Manuel Marchena has repeatedly put down lawyers’ complaints arguing that judges will watch the videos in due time, when testimonies are over, and therefore there’s no need to show them before.

The International Trial Watch (ITW) organisation stressed that ‘the right to a trial without delays can’t be invoked by this court against the right to defence, especially considering the prison sentences requested by prosecutors.’

ALSO READ: Catalan trial: controversy over ‘rebellion’ and violence

In their most recent assessment of the trial, ITW raised concerns over judges’ ‘lack of objective impartiality’ after Marchena interrogated former police chief Josep Lluís Trapero about a meeting with top government officials.

The international organisation also criticised the courtroom for threatening witnesses who allegedly avoided questions with legal action, while others – including Spain’s former president Mariano Rajoy and his ministers – received no warning.

Defence lawyer Roig objected in the courtroom on Wednesday on the grounds that one of the Guardia Civil officers under cross-examination was giving his testimony about events that the defence didn’t know he had taken part in.

Roig and other defence teams complain that this didn’t give them time to prepare their cross-examination.

Click here for all articles and updates on the Catalan Trial

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