Catalan premier Artur Mas stood before a judge for an hour on Thursday morning to answer charges of disobedience for organizing an informal referendum on independence held on November 9 last year.
But the nationalist leader refused to respond to the questions posed by prosecutors inside the Catalonia regional High Court (TSJC), which is investigating the charges brought by the Attorney General’s Office against Mas and two aides following the non-binding vote, which the Catalan government refers to as a “popular consultation.”
The Spanish state did not accept the celebration of our exemplary civic celebration in Catalonia, which drew 2.3 million voters”
Catalan premier Artur Mas
“I don’t understand why I’m here providing explanations,” he said. “In any case, I should give them in the [Catalan] parliament. The consultation was a political decision.”
Mas did issue one clear message: that all responsibility in organizing the ballot rests with him alone, and not with his former deputy Joana Ortega or regional education chief Irene Rigau, who face similar charges of disobedience.
Following his court appearance, the Catalan leader gave a press conference in which he reiterated that he viewed the legal action against him as politically motivated.
“There are those who will want to force the case and take it to the limit, because we are not dealing with a neutral state,” said Mas, speaking in Catalan. “This is a political case that should be resolved as a political case.”
“We are talking about potential prison terms for taking out the ballot boxes without forcing any situation. The Spanish state did not accept the celebration of our exemplary civic celebration in Catalonia, which drew 2.3 million voters,” he added.
The Catalan leader revealed that he had refused to answer the prosecutors’ questions because it was “the Attorney General’s Office that imposed the filing of charges.”
A crowd of supporters showed up at the door of the courthouse early in the morning to protest the legal action against Mas, who is hoping that popular support for his judicial plight will help get him reinstated as premier after last month’s parliamentary elections in Catalonia, which were won by his Junts pel Si coalition.
Asked whether he would obey in the event of being tried and found guilty, which would entail him being barred from office, Mas responded with a “that depends.”
English version by Susana Urra.