Nieto, Zoido's second in command during the 1-O events, accuses the Catalan police of having allowed the referendumThe former secretary of state for security of the Rajoy cabinet has stated that, on 1-O, the amount of force used was "the minimum required" and the behaviour of the Guardia Civil and the Policía Nacional were "exemplary"
Josep Maria Camps
The former secretary of state for security, José Antonio Nieto, on the witness stand on Monday in the Supreme Court
The sittings of the trial against the pro-independence leaders accused of rebellion before the Supreme Court have resumed on Monday with the statements of outstanding witnesses.
The first to answer questions from the prosecutions and the defence counsels was José Antonio Nieto, the secretary of state for Security and the second in command of the ministry of the interior of Mariano Rajoy's cabinet during autumn 2017.
Prosecutor Javier Zaragoza in the Supreme Court on Monday, interrogating José Antonio Nieto
The 20S "riot"
Nieto's statement began with questions from prosecutor Javier Zaragoza, who asked him how he experienced the demonstration in front of the ministry of the Economy on 20 September 2017-
According to Nieto, he was deeply concerned on that day due to the "riot" that was taking place:
"I had the obligation -or the opportunity- to follow these images throughout the day, and I had the chance to see how the situation deteriorated. In fact, I paid close attention to it because we were seriously concerned about the consequences of the riot that was concentrating there and which could affect the Guardia Civil officers and all the people who were carrying out... We had serious doubts and many concerns about their safety."
Nieto has stated that the proof that there was a "riot" lies in the "very serious" damage to the Guardia Civil vehicles, with a "very high level of destruction."
The former secretary of state for Security, José Antonio Nieto, on the witness stand of the Supreme Court on Monday
The searches and the "solid level of organisation" of the Committees for the Defence of the Republic
The former secretary of state said that, during those days, whenever the Guardia Civil carried out searches, gatherings were "immediately" organised. According to him, these gatherings were not "spontaneous", but rather "activated by a number of groups."
According to his statement, these groups had a "beacon effect" and, after the events of 1-O, he learned that they were the Committees for the Defence of the Republic which, according to him, displayed "a solid level of organisation":
"The Committees for the Defence of the Republic had an organisational mission but, in my opinion, I would say that they derived towards a violent attitude or they promoted the adoption of violent attitudes."
Nieto added that the entities that called those mobilisations always included the ANC and Òmnium.
Trapero, critical towards the appointment of Pérez de Los Cobos
The former secretary of State stated that the appointment of Guardia Civil colonel Diego Pérez de los Cobos as coordinator of the police operation for the 1-O operation was not well received by the top brass of the Catalan police, especially by Major Josep Lluís Trapero:
"Mister Pérez de los Cobos told me verbally that, in one of their first meetings, mister Trapero, the major of the Catalan police, verbally stated that he did not agree with his appointment."
Nieto has stated that, at all times, the Catalan police was reluctant to collaborated with "the police operation that had been organised."
Responsible for "suggesting" moving the 6,000 officers
With regard to the Guardia Civil and Policía Nacional reinforcements, Nieto explained that they were activated after the Catalan parliament approved the law on disconnection and the referendum law on 6 and 7 September.
The former secretary of State took on the responsibility for having "suggested" the decision to send 6,000 police officers.
Nieto added that, in these decisions, he "benefitted from the support" of the minister of the Interior, as well as that of other ministries that "had to provide their cooperation."
The amount of force used on 1-O was "the minimum required"
With regard to the day of the referendum, Nieto stated that the actions of the police were proportionate and that the amount of force used was "the minimum required":
"As in all actions that are carried out, we have a significant amount of personnel with a long professional career and who are trained to be specialists in the management of the use of force. Moreover, any unit specialised in such actions is familiar with the situation at hand, knows how to manage it, and it is aware that, when the moment comes, the use of force may be necessary."
The amount of force used was the minimum required. And, in this line of work, I would like to insist on that point due to the fact that not only was there much pressure from individuals, but also from the media and the environment in which the work was being carried out, which was very complex, and it is especially important to take this into account when assessing the work carried out by professionals on such a complex day as 1-O."
Former minister of the Interior, Joaquim Forn, next to Oriol Junqueras and Raül Romeva, listening to the statement of José Antonio Nieto from behind the defence counsels
There were no "baton charges"
Nieto stated that if "the efficiency" of the operations had been "prioritised", "the amount of violence would have been much greater."
In this regard, when questioned by Zaragoza on whether or not there were "baton charges" during the day of the referendum, the former secretary of state denied it, alleging that the definition of this concept is not concordant with what took place, and he stated that there was only "use of force":
"A baton charge is an action by a unit of riot police for the purpose of dissolving a demonstration or clearing a space that is being occupied. This did not take place at any moment, there were no actions of this nature that could technically be described as baton charges."
"There was indeed use of force by units of the police and Guardia Civil. And, at some points, it was carried out in quite a striking manner. However, this was only intended to achieve the goal of allowing these units to withdraw in good order."
No orders to retreat in a "worst-case scenario"
With regard to the changes in police actions that took place around noon on 1 October, when police forces ceased in their attempts to enter the polling stations through force, Nieto stated that there were no specific orders for this to take place.
However, according to his statement, there was indeed a change in the situation due to the fact that law enforcement forces were left "alone", and he stated that the people gathered resisted, "giving rise to situations of violence in many cases":
"We did ultimately end up in the worst-case scenario, namely, the scenario in which the Catalan police failed to act and, not only did they not act and we were left alone, it was the scenario in which the highest level of resistance among the ones we had anticipated was displayed."
"We could have not acted alone and have not met with resistance from the people gathered in the polling stations, or have met with resistance that was actually peaceful and meant to draw attention, or we could have met with resistance such as that which we were ultimately met with, namely, highly intense resistance in some polling stations that gave rise to situations of violence in many cases."
Government attorney Rosa María Seoane, interrogating José Antonio Nieto in the Supreme Court on Monday
A "greater" use of force "would have been permitted by the law"
Once Zaragoza had concluded his questioning, when asked by government attorney Rosa María Seoane, Nieto alleged that law enforcement forces would have been legally entitled to make a more intense use of force:
"We always chose to withdraw and not fulfil our ultimate objective when faced with this situation. If our orders had been to 'fulfil the objective at all cost' we would have made a greater use of force, and it would have been permitted by the law, it would have been covered by safety measures, by the security staff of these forces, and they would have fulfilled their objectives. However, whenever violence was excessive... in compliance with what was established in the operation, the option was to fall back, and they fell back in a significant number of actions."
Nieto stated that a "significant number" of police officers were injured, but that most of them did not apply for leave:
"I must say, and I highly appreciated it, that almost none of them, being entitled to do so, applied for leave, because they understood that it was their responsibility to remain on duty despite of the pain caused by their injuries."
With regard to the citizens injured by the police operation, he said that he "is aware" that there some, and that there were also "people who said they had been injured."
Nieto unambiguously put the blame for ultimately allowing the referendum to be carried out on the Catalan police:
"I am certain that, if the Catalan police had clearly and obviously manifested their will to carry out the court mandate, the 1 October referendum would have been called off."
The "military-grade weapons" according to Nieto
With regard to the famous "military-grade weapons" mentioned by former minister of the Interior Juan Ignacio Zoido, when questioned by the prosecution exerted by Vox, Nieto stated that they were not "the ones commonly used by police forces":
Javier Ortega Smith: "Did the state secretariat and you yourself have knowledge of a suspended request in which the Catalan government intended to purchase military-grade weapons from Germany, and do you remember the type of weapons and the reasons for which the deal was frozen?"
José Antonio Nieto: "This file had already been received by the Ministry of the Interior when I joined it in November 2016. It is a complex dossier in which there are two aspects I find outstanding about the first formalities I carried out with the personnel of the state secretariat when this request was made known to me."
José Antonio Nieto: "Two aspects stood out. One of them was the amount. Both the amount of weapons and the amount of ammunition requested was much higher than usual. The other was quality, because some of the weapons requested were not the ones commonly used by police forces and they differed from the ones commonly purchased by the Catalan police corps."
- Catalan independence trial