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Catalan separatist trial: Defense says prosecutors are “twisting” the facts

Ex-parliament speaker and civil society leader are being criminalized for exercising their constitutional rights, say attorneys in closing arguments at the Spanish Supreme Court

Marina Roig, the defense lawyer for Jordi Cuixart, at the Supreme Court.
Marina Roig, the defense lawyer for Jordi Cuixart, at the Supreme Court.

Defense lawyers for two Catalan separatist leaders on trial at Spain’s Supreme Court on Wednesday accused prosecutors of “twisting” the facts in order to make it look like their clients engaged in rebellion, a crime that entails long prison terms.

In their closing arguments, lawyers for Carme Forcadell, a former Catalan parliament speaker, and for Jordi Cuixart, president of a pro-independence association called Òmnium, challenged the prosecution’s views that their clients actively promoted a rebellion against the Spanish state.

The point here has been to exaggerate or magnify Ms Forcadell’s conduct at all times

Defense lawyer Olga Arderiu

Both are facing up to 17 years in jail if found guilty of leading a failed uprising in October 2017, when a separatist government organized an outlawed referendum and later held a parliamentary vote that led to an independence declaration, triggering action by Madrid that suspended the region’s powers of self-government until early June 2018.

“The point here has been to exaggerate or magnify Ms Forcadell’s conduct at all times,” said her lawyer Olga Arderiu, claiming that her client is on trial for who she is, rather than for what she did.

Defendants on day two of the trial at the Supreme Court.
Defendants on day two of the trial at the Supreme Court. EFE

Prosecutors, who delivered their own closing arguments last week, hold that Forcadell and Cuixart were key to sustaining two main pillars of the rebellion attempt: action inside the Catalan parliament and by civil society.

Under Forcadell, the chamber passed breakaway laws that enabled the referendum to take place and paved the way for a future Catalan republic. The parliament also held a session declaring independence despite protests from the opposition and warnings from the Constitutional Court.

Olga Arderiu, defense lawyer for Carme Forcadell, in court on Wednesday.
Olga Arderiu, defense lawyer for Carme Forcadell, in court on Wednesday. EFE

Cuixart is accused of mobilizing pro-independence citizens to stage street protests in order to create social pressure. More specifically, he has been probed for his role in a large demonstration outside the Catalan economy department in September 2017 that resulted in vandalized police cars and other alleged acts of violence. The rebellion charge hinges on the existence or not of violence.

Forcadell’s lawyer sought to minimize her responsibility for parliamentary procedures, saying that she “respected parliamentary regulations and the rights of parliament members” at all times, despite adverse reports by the chamber’s legal counsel and complaints by the opposition that their rights were being trampled by using the chamber for illegal acts.

There is no Constitution without a democracy, no democracy without citizen participation, or collective participation without the material conditions to facilitate it

Defense lawyer Marina Roig

Cuixart’s lawyer, Marina Roig, insisted that her client is being criminalized for ideological reasons, and tried for exercising his constitutionally protected right of assembly, right to demonstrate, and freedom of expression.

“There is no Constitution without a democracy, no democracy without citizen participation, or collective participation without the material conditions to facilitate it,” said Roig. “You cannot weigh protecting the unity of Spain against the exercise of fundamental rights.”

Described as the most important trial to take place in Spain since the restoration of democracy in the late 1970s, the court case has lasted four months while a panel of seven justices heard testimony from around 400 witnesses. On Tuesday, lawyers for former deputy Catalan premier Oriol Junqueras and other independence leaders delivered their own closing arguments and denied the accusations of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds in connection with the failed secession bid of October 2017, saying instead that it was an act of disobedience. A verdict is expected sometime in the fall.

English version by Susana Urra.

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