Last year saw the Supreme Court trial of the pro-independence leaders involved in the 2017 secessionist drive in Catalonia. That case concluded with nine politicians and civic association leaders given lengthy prison sentences for offenses including sedition and misuse of funds. Around 20 kilometers from the Supreme Court, a new trial began today related to the events of 2017, which saw an illegal referendum held in the northeastern Spanish region, followed by a unilateral declaration of independence.
Proceedings began on Monday in the Audiencia Nacional, the Spanish High Court, which is located in San Fernando de Henares, a municipality in the east of Madrid. Facing trial are the former heads of the Catalan regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, accused of having played a “key role” in the pro-independence drive. Four people are taking the stand, and, as in the Supreme Court case, are accused of rebellion and sedition. The public prosecutor is calling for up to 11 years in jail for each of them. But who are they? What role did they play during the events in question? And what evidence is there against them?
Trapero figures constantly in the 94-page written accusation filed in the High Court by the public prosecutor
Josep Lluís Trapero. The then-chief of the Mossos d’Esquadra was sacked from his position in 2017, after four years in charge of the regional force. Trapero figures constantly in the 94-page written accusation filed in the High Court by the public prosecutor, and is attributed as having taken a proactive attitude during the independence drive. “He contributed in a decisive manner so that the Mossos were placed at the service of the secessionist plan,” the prosecutor writes, adding that he “deliberately designed mechanisms so that officers were hindered from complying with the instructions issued by the public prosecutor and with court rulings.”
He is also blamed for setting out the “instructions and operational rules given to the Mossos on October 1,” the day that the illegal referendum took place. The regional officers were accused of “passivity” on the day of the vote, and were seen in a number of videos doing nothing to stop the referendum from taking place, despite the fact that it had been declared illegal by Spain’s top courts. (The attempts by the National Police and the Civil Guard to stop the vote saw now-infamous scenes of police violence against citizens, and there were also moments of tension between the two aforementioned forces and the Mossos themselves.)
The public prosecutor has also drawn attention to Trapero’s alleged orders to send an “insufficient police presence” to the Economic Affairs Department on September 20, where a crowd of protestors gathered while the Spanish authorities searched the building to try to find materials relating to the planned referendum. He is also accused of collusion with the pro-independence politicians, whom he “informed of the police and judicial investigations that were taking place.”
When he appeared as a witness in the Supreme Court trial, Trapero voiced his main line of defense: that he and the Mossos always displayed their commitment to the law. “We told [the secessionist leaders] that the Mossos were not going to break the law or the Constitution,” he said in court at the time. “That we did not accompany them on their pro-independence project.”
But there are a series of factors that could contradict that defense, such as a number of phone calls between Trapero and one of the jailed independence leaders, Jordi Sànchez, during the protests outside the Economic Affairs Department. Sànchez was tried in the Supreme Court and jailed for his involvement in the organization of that protest.
“The conditions imposed by Sànchez during that day were assumed completely by Trapero, who, with his conscious inactivity, avoided putting an end to the serious public-order problem that was taking place,” the prosecution states, including an exchange of emails between Pere Soler, the former general director of the Mossos, and Trapero himself. Before October 1, Soler said to Trapero: “Orders from the [regional] government must take precedence over those that come from the public prosecutor or the judicial police.” In another mail, the prosecutors claim, Trapero responded saying: “On October 1, 2017, a referendum on Catalan self-determination must be held.”
Pere Soler. At the time of the independence drive, Soler was the general director of the Mossos, which is a political appointment. An attorney and former city councilor in Tarrasa, he is accused by the public prosecutor of having planned “the steps to be taken on the days prior” to the referendum to guarantee it took place. He is accused of having done this along with Trapero and the former regional interior minister, Joaquim Forn. “They designed a [police] action plan that was deliberately inefficient,” the prosecution states. Soler is also accused of “giving cover and protection to the people implicated in the organization of the referendum.” Among these figures was Francesc Sutrias Grau, who was arrested for allegedly acquiring material for use in the referendum with public money. “He promised him counter-surveillance measures and even greater protection to counteract the judicial investigation that was targeting him.”
César Puig. The former secretary general of the regional interior department – also a political appointment – is accused by the prosecution of conveying information about the actions of the National Police and Civil Guard and “providing information to the promoters of the process to guarantee it ended well.”
According to the accusation, Puig raised the alarm about a search at private postal service Unipost, where there were “thousands of envelopes ready to send” “that contained letters with names and surnames addressed to Catalan citizens who had been designated to man polling booths that would be set up on October 1.”
Teresa Laplana. The least-known figure in the trial, this Mossos officer was in charge of the security detail at the Economic Affairs Department during the search on September 20. “She cooperated in a decisive, conscious and intentional manner with the aims sought by the Catalan institutions and the pro-independence associations, impeding the judicial process under the legal conditions necessary with her deliberate passivity,” the prosecutor states, arguing that she “disregarded providing the assistance that had been requested by the Civil Guard” despite being aware of the need for the Mossos to intervene.
“She repeatedly and intentionally refused to provide the assistance that was being requested, guided by the ultimate purpose that was behind her actions, which was to hinder the actions of the judicial committee,” the prosecutor states. The accusation also points out that on October 26, 2017, the day before the unilateral declaration of independence was passed by the regional parliament, the National Police intercepted a truck with three mossos on board and documents that were “on their way to being incinerated.” The prosecutor adds that among those papers, “there were documents that revealed the true intentions of the Mossos chiefs, which were to not stop the referendum from taking place and to work with the pro-independence leaders on the development and culmination of a process that would conclude with the independence of Catalonia.”
English version by Simon Hunter.