26th June 2019
Defence lawyers Xavier Melero and Andreu Van den Eynde
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Catalan Trial: Day 51 – defence summaries

The closing arguments from the defence teams in the Catalan trial, on its 51st day, started at Spain’s Supreme Court with the lawyer representing for Oriol Junqueras and Raül Romeva accused the public prosecutor of ‘biased, exaggerated, and strident rhetoric’.

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

Closing arguments of Andreu Van den Eynde

Andreu Van den Eynde, representing both the former Catalan vice-president and foreign minister, broke his closing arguments down into key events, such as the protests against police raids in September 2017 ahead of the vote, the referendum day itself, and the unilateral declaration of independence.

The defence lawyer also divided his closing arguments by accusation; rebellion, sedition, and misuse of funds.

He said on Tuesday that the nature of the accusations in the final report by the prosecution ‘undermines their credibility’ since, in his view, it included ‘the occasional lie’ as well as a ‘lack of clarity’ over the alleged role of violence in the independence drive.

Defence lawyers Xavier Melero and Andreu Van den Eynde
Defence lawyers Xavier Melero and Andreu Van den Eynde listen to witnesses on 10 April 2019 at the Supreme Court.

ALSO READ: Catalan Trial: Day 50 – prosecution summaries

Van den Eynde explained to the court that the number of incidents of violence could be ‘counted on one hand – only three’, and argued that these incidents were all ‘reactive’ to the police operation aiming to stop the referendum.

The Catalan lawyer’s final statement before the court focused on the vocabulary employed by the prosecutor, which he claimed revealed a detachment from the facts about the unrest around the referendum. ‘Instead of talking about two vehicles, they talk about the apocalypse. They don’t like reality; they’re afraid of it,’ van den Eynde argued.

The legal definition in the Spanish penal code states that violence is a necessary element of rebellion, of which the defendants are accused.

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

‘I still don’t know when this uprising is taking place,’ Van den Eynde said in court. ‘The people did not go out to topple the state, they went to vote and protest. The defendants refused violence, no message where they promote it has been found. However, they have found many messages where the accused defend the opposite – peace.’

Andreu Van den Eynde’s client Raül Romeva was the Catalan minister of foreign affairs during 2017, and as such he devoted some time to speak about the internationalisation of the independence push at the time.

Catalan leaders on trial
Former Catalan leaders including (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 at the Supreme Court in Madrid on 12 February 2019. (Emilio Naranjo / POOL / AFP)

The Catalan lawyer pointed to freedom of expression regarding the appearances of politicians and conferences on the topic of Catalan independence. ‘It’s about knowing if a politician has the right to speak about self-determination. Freedom of expression also protects the opinions that hurt.’

ALSO READ: Jordi Sànchez: ‘Nothing we’ve seen in our trial justifies prison’

‘The dissemination of ideas is criminalised only when we explain it to colleagues and the public outside of Spain. The fear of the internationalisation of territorial debate in the 21st century cannot be understood.’

Regarding the unilateral declaration of independence on 27 October 2017, the lawyer said ‘we all agree on the political relevance’ of declaration, but he wanted to make the point that the declaration was only symbolic, and that ‘the only side arguing the factual and judicial relevance of it is the prosecution’.

To conclude, Andreu Van den Eynde referred to the trial and the verdict as an ‘opportunity to resolve the conflict’ by ‘putting the ball back in the court of politics’.

ALSO READ: Lawyer Ben Emmerson: ‘Spain is acting like a rogue State’

Closing arguments of Xavier Melero

After a short break, the defence lawyers continued with their closing arguments to confound claims made in the public prosecutor’s final report, with Joaquim Forn‘s counsel insisting that there was no declaration of independence in October 2017.

Xavier Melero – representing the former interior minister, who belatedly received permission to take his seat in Barcelona’s City Hall on Saturday – said that despite the Catalan Parliament passing a resolution to ‘constitute the Catalan republic as an independent and sovereign state’, the chamber did not implement this before it was dissolved.

‘The Catalan government breached its own declaration of independence and instead made provisions for the application of Article 155 [the suspension of self-rule in Catalonia]. I am aware that this may annoy some people,’ he told the Supreme Court.

Melero claimed that the relinquishing of control by the parliament in Barcelona ‘as soon as home rule was suspended’ proved that it ‘abandoned power’ rather than acting on the declaration and that this meant the declaration effectively never took place.

Defence lawyers in Supreme Court
The defence lawyers in the Supreme Court, with some of the defendants sitting in the row behind on 26 March 2019.

ALSO READ: A UN group demands release of Sànchez, Cuixart and Junqueras

At the beginning of his speech, Melero also reproached prosecutor Javier Zaragoza for a ‘lack of respect’ in citing the Nazis as part of his portrayal of the events of 2017 as a ‘coup d’état’. He referred to Godwin’s Second Law, which states that anyone who makes an analogy to Adolf Hitler in a debate in the 21st century is bound to lose the argument.

The second counsel to sum up after Andreu Van den Eynde also accused the prosecution of ‘bias and exaggeration’ on behalf of Oriol Junqueras and Raül Romeva. Melero also called into question the role of the Spanish National Police on referendum day.

‘The police officers who were deployed in Catalonia for the referendum were not there to prevent it from taking place properly, but for political reasons, to make it appear invalid,’ he said. ‘The police did not comply with any court order. It was a failure.’

Melero also reminded the court that rebellion sentences are related to military coup d’états. He said there were no Spanish contingency plans for the referendum, implying that if it had truly constituted rebellion it would have warranted a state of siege or exception.

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Melero said that his client Joaquim Forn made it clear to the police that they should comply with their court orders, stressing that in this, Forn set his own political considerations aside. Forn was the Catalan interior minister at the time of the referendum.

Xavier Melero also considered the instruction to the Catalan Police [the Mossos d’Esquadra] to shut down polling stations as ‘unfeasible’. He also pointed out that none of the police bodies, including the Spanish Guardia Civil, were able to stop the referendum from taking place.

Closing arguments of Jordi Pina

What took place in Catalonia in the fall of 2017 were not ‘uprisings’ but rather ‘demonstrations and protests’, argued Jordi Pina, the lawyer of three Catalan leaders on trial over the independence bid told the Supreme Court.

In his closing arguments, Pina, who is representing former ministers, Jordi Turull and Josep Rull, and former activist leader, Jordi Sànchez, defended the right of the public to protest and even added that protesting judicial decisions is ‘necessary’.

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Spanish police acted on court orders in raids of government buildings and businesses on 20 September 2017, sparking widespread protests, while the attempt by police to prevent the unilateral referendum on 1 October 2017 was also ordered by judges.

What’s more, Pina denied the prosecution’s allegation of ‘incitement’ on behalf of his clients, in urging more than two million people to vote in the referendum that had been declared illegal by the Spanish courts.

Above all, Pina rejected the charge of rebellion against his clients, insisting that the law foresees the use of ‘armed force’, while ‘the passive resistance shown by citizens is incompatible with the concept of a public uprising’.

Supreme Court
Some of the 12 defendants in the Supreme Court on 4 June 2019.

The lawyer also highlighted the footage taken during the referendum that was shown in court amid a ‘deafening silence’, asking ‘where are the people hitting police officers?’ Instead, he blamed the examples of ‘reprehensible’ conduct of certain members of the Spanish police.

ALSO READ: Jailed Catalans on trial suspended as Spanish MPs

Following the referendum, on 27 October 2017, the Catalan Parliament approved a declaration of independence, which the defendants claim was symbolic in nature. Pina pointed out that the following day normal life continued as if nothing had happened, much less an insurrection.

‘It’s unnatural to proclaim a republic and independence and then the next day to go to work and for there to be no incidents, when if you had just split from Spain there would have been rejoicing, disorder and attacks if we were talking about a rebellion.’

Pina also said Catalonia is ‘peaceful’ even if the media and certain politicians try to portray it otherwise.

He said that the accused cannot be charged with rebellion since the voters – pro-indy and pro-unity – did not commit illegal acts, otherwise voters would be charged too. Since the voters did not participate in a public uprising, Pina said the accused cannot be charged with rebellion.

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Questioning the prosecution’s description of protestor violence to try and justify the rebellion charges, Pina reminded the court that ‘there wasn’t even any trash left on the ground at the protest against Cuixart and Sànchez’s imprisonment’.

He argues that the prosecution was confusing public disorder with rebellion and sedition, stating that what took place cannot truly be considered rebellion or sedition as defined by Spain’s Penal Code‘s articles 472 and 473.

To conclude, defence lawyer Jordi Pina told the court that he has, once again, asked for the release of his three jailed clients: Jordi Turull, Jordi Sànchez and Josep Rull.

Josep Riba, representing Carles Mundó (accused of disobedience and misuse of public funds) – was the last defence lawyer of the day to summarise his arguments.

Former justice minister Mundó’s lawyer refuted the charge of misuse of funds, saying that there was no evidence that the Catalan government spent anything on the referendum logistics or ballot boxes.

The trial resumes tomorrow, Wednesday, at 9:30am

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

Click here for all articles and updates on the Catalan Trial

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