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Catalan independence leaders on trial

The only arguments that should influence the outcome of this high-profile Supreme Court case are legal ones, not political ones

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The Supreme Court in Madrid.
The Supreme Court in Madrid.Luis Sevillano

At Spain’s Supreme Court, the trial of political and civil association leaders who helped organize an illegal referendum in Catalonia, and who participated in the subsequent unilateral declaration of independence, has begun.

From now on, the only arguments that can and must influence the outcome are legal arguments, regardless of how much the political parties that the defendants belong to – as well as some of the defense lawyers – may want to keep up their propaganda campaign aimed at questioning the impartiality of the court and, by extension, the democratic nature of the Spanish political system.

All sessions are public, including those held at the Supreme Court, as are the judgments

The facts used to achieve this goal throughout the judicial investigation were not strictly facts, but half-truths or even falsehoods used to create a climate of opinion favorable to their agenda.

The decision not to extradite individuals over a specific criminal charge, as some European courts have done, does not mean that these courts have entered any judgment granting acquittal, as the pro-independence parties claim.

Much less have these courts made any statements in support of the allegedly democratic nature of actions that took place in Catalonia, such as abolishing the Constitution that was overwhelmingly approved by Spaniards in a 1978 referendum, on the strength of nothing more than a slim majority vote inside the regional parliament. Or the way that ballot boxes bought in China were surreptitiously placed in voting stations. Or how a voter census for the independence referendum was drafted in violation of citizens’ privacy rights. Or how these citizens were then encouraged to participate in a vote that had been declared illegal by the Constitutional Court. Or how the regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, were ordered to do nothing to stop the vote from taking place. Or finally, how the vote count that resulted from so much runaway irrationality was taken to unquestionably mean that the people of Catalonia wanted independence, something that was subsequently declared on the steps of the Catalan parliament in front of a spontaneous gathering of mayors holding up their staff of office.

The facts used to achieve this goal throughout the judicial investigation were not strictly facts

The task that lies ahead for the Supreme Court is to examine these and other facts included in the preliminary investigation, to determine the category of crime that they fall under and the defendants’ degree of participation in the same, and to enter a judgment that may be appealed before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg because Spanish legislation allows for this.

The pro-independence forces have demanded to have international observers present at the trial, and used the court’s refusal of this point to build a new campaign questioning its impartiality. The truth is that, by making this request for observers, the separatist parties are not trying to enhance the legal guarantees offered by Spain’s democratic system, but rather to reduce them. At any trial held in compliance with the Constitution, any citizen – whether a supporter or detractor of the secessionist agenda – may legitimately follow the hearings without the need for express authorization. This is out of the simple fact that all sessions are public, including those held at the Supreme Court, as are the rulings.

Catalan premier Joaquim Torra announced his intention to be present at the Supreme Court at the beginning of the proceedings. The president of the court has expressed a willingness to find him a spot deserving of the dignity of what he represents – an authority and institution of the state. But Torra will have to provide an urgent political explanation to the citizens of Catalonia, who have the right to know why he is going to walk off on the job that he was elected to do, and whether this unjustifiable absence will last throughout the duration of the trial.

English version by Susana Urra.

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