Defence rejects claim actions amounted to coup as landmark proceedings draw to close
Lawyers for the Catalan separatist leaders on trial over their alleged role in the regions failed independence bid have flatly denied their clients engaged in violent rebellion against the Spanish state as the landmark proceedings draw to an end.
The trial, which has lasted four months and heard testimony from 422 witnesses, has examined the events leading up to the unilateral independence referendum on 1 October 2017 and the Catalan parliaments subsequent declaration of independence.
Nine of the 12 defendants who include the former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras, the former speaker of the Catalan parliament Carme Forcadell, and two influential grassroots activists, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Snchez are accused of rebellion, which carries a prison sentence of up to 25 years.
Other charges include sedition and the misuse of public funds.
Last week, the state prosecutor described the push for secession as a coup detat intended to overturn, suspend the constitution completely or partially, and declare the independence of one part of the national territory.
However, defence lawyers have rejected such arguments, pointing out that, under Spanish law, rebellion involves revolting violently and publicly.
Junqueras lawyer, Andreu Van den Eynde, told the supreme court in Madrid that while there may have been disobedience, there had been no rebellion.
Talking about a coup detat is confusing disobedience with rebellion, he said. The offence of disobedience carries a fine and a ban from holding public office, but not a jail term.
The case has centred on the referendum, which was held in defiance of the then government of conservative prime minister Mariano Rajoy, and of the countrys constitution, which is founded on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation.
Polling day was marred by a heavy-handed and violent response from some of the national and Guardia Civil police officers who had been deployed to the area before the vote.
Ballot boxes were forcibly seized, while voters were dragged out of polling stations, hit with batons and rubber bullets were fired.
Appearing as a witness in February, Rajoy blamed the violence on the Catalan authorities.
If they hadnt called people to vote in an illegal referendum and hadnt made decisions that broke the law, neither you nor I would have had to see the injuries that some people and some members of the security forces had, he told the court.
The trial has also focused on the events of 20 September 2017, when police raided Catalan regional government offices and arrested 14 senior officials in an attempt to head off the vote.
The raids brought thousands of Catalans out to protest. Guardia Civil officers found themselves trapped inside the buildings they were searching and three of their vehicles were vandalised.
The state prosecutor, Javier Zaragoza, said such behaviour constituted physical, compulsive and intimidatory violence.
He added: The violent nature of an uprising does not mean there has to be either serious or armed violence.
When the trial began in February, Junqueras described himself as a political prisoner and said he was in the dock for his beliefs.
Nothing we have done is a crime and we are innocent of the crimes we are accused of, Junqueras told the court.
We are republicans first and then separatists, but above all we are democrats. We are convinced that a republic of Catalonia is the best way to create a just society. We have always pursued this goal and will continue to do so, whatever the outcome of this trial. Sending us to jail wont solve anything.
The former Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, who led the push for regional independence, is not among those on trial. He fled Spain to avoid arrest shortly at the end of October 2017 and is living in self-imposed exile in Belgium.
Manuel Marchena, the chairman of the seven judges hearing the case, refused a request for Puigdemont to appear as a witness in the proceedings. He cant be a defendant in the morning and a witness in the afternoon, said Marchena.
Although the trial phase is over, verdicts and sentences are not expected until the autumn. The defendants have already said they will appeal to the European court of human rights if necessary.