Rajoy: "We felt it was more fair to apply article 155 than to declare a state of emergency"The former Spanish PM sets himself apart from the police operations of 1 October and states that the Catalan government "was fully aware of the fact that I would not authorise a referendum"
Mariano Rajoy in the Supreme Court
Mariano Rajoy has stated that, while he held the position of Spanish PM, he informed all interlocutors from the Catalan government that he would never allow a referendum on self-determination in Catalonia.
Before the Supreme Court, where the accused are being judged on the charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds, the former prime minister of the government of Spain explained that he had made this position clear to the Catalan government since Artur Mas' term of office:
"They were fully aware, from the first day on which I met with mister Mas, that I would not authorise a referendum to liquidatenational sovereignty, the unity of Spain and to violate the law. Therefore, there have not been any agreements, let alone conversations to reach an agreement on holding a referendum."
The unity of Spain cannot be negotiated
Rajoy added that, in any event, sovereignty belongs to the Spanish people:
"All interlocutors I had in the Catalan government were aware that, as long as Mariano Rajoy was prime minister of Spain, there would be no referendum to liquidate national sovereignty."
With regard to dialogue with the Puigdemont government, he roundly stated that he could not accept what was being put forward by it:
"One cannot dialogue with someone who only wants to set a date or discuss the terms in which national sovereignty will be liquidated."
He highlighted that he set dialogue towards attempting to "put an end to the violations of the Constitution."
Defending article 155 before the state of emergency
Mariano Rajoy, who was first questioned by Vox through attorney Javier Ortega Smith, justified that, faced with the actions of the Catalan government, his cabinet chose to apply article 155 of the Constitution instead of the state of emergency in order to not affect "individual rights":
"We felt that article 155 was much more effective for the purpose at hand, and it was more fair because states of emergency or of siege may affect, and in fact do affect, the individual rights of people, and we believed that the application of article 155 did not affect them in the same manner. It was simply a question of deposing a government but without putting an end to the institution of the Catalan government, after which we decided to call elections."
Rajoy has been the fourth witness to give testimony in the trial after Joan Tardà, Artur Mas and Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, who did so on Wednesday morning, in the eighth sitting of the trial. The testimony lasted for one hour and forty-five minutes.
The Court maintained the testimony for the scheduled time, at 4 in the afternoon, even though one of the witnesses scheduled for the morning, former Chancellor of the Exchequer Cristóbal Montoro, was yet to give testimony, which he did after the former Spanish PM.
"I never took decisions on police operations"
Rajoy set himself apart from the actions of the police on 1 October. When questioned by attorney Andrey Van den Eynde, he denied having had anything to do with the strategy followed by the police and Guardia Civil officers deployed in Catalonia:
"I have never adopted any decisions on police operations, and I acted as minister of the Interior for over 2 years. Those decisions correspond to whoever is at the head of the operation."
Rajoy set himself apart from the police operations and, in fact, he was even unable to give the name of the person in charge of the operation, Lieutenant colonel Diego Pérez de los Cobos.
Regrets the images of baton charges on 1-O
Towards the end of his statement, Rajoy viewed images of 1 October in La Ràpita in which baton charges from the national police could be seen, as well as people complaining about having been hit. The former Spanish PM stated that he "deeply regretted" this and other images:
"The responsibility of political leaders is to avoid events such as those we have seen from taking place. If people had acted in compliance with the law, rather than violating it, we would not have seen these images nor other similar images that can be seen here. I deeply regret them; I do not like them, not only these, but also any others. We must work towards not creating the conditions for these images."
And, as former deputy PM Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría did before, he felt that nothing would have happened on the day of the referendum had there not been a call to go to the polling stations:
"If the people had not been called to an illegal referendum, none of us would have had to see any injuries to citizens and law enforcement officers."
Mediation and Urkullu
Attorney Jordi Pina was involved in one of the tugs of war in the questioning of Rajoy when he asked him if Basque premier Iñigo Urkullu acted as a mediator between the Spanish government and the Catalan government.
Rajoy replied ambiguously at first, but ultimately admitted that Urkullu was one of "many" people who took an interest in the subject. Nevertheless, he did not specify if they spoke over the telephone or personally in the Palace of Moncloa:
"(Rajoy)- I have been very generous, because I have told you that many people wanted to intermediate, took an interest in the subject... including Urkullu.
(Pina) - And did you listen to Mr Urkullu?
(Rajoy)- I listen to everybody. And, therefore, I listened to him, and I told him what I pointed out earlier: that I was not willing to negotiate.
(Pina)- Did you deal with mister Urkullu personally when he asked to intermediate between the Catalan government and the Spanish government?
(Rajoy)- Nobody asked me...
(Marchena)- I am certain I have heard that you did listen to mister Urkullu personally, because you listen to everybody.
Rajoy pointed out that there was "no mediator about anything":
"There has been no mediator about anything here because, as I have pointed out, my positions were clear, as were those of the other party. I received calls from a great many people. I saw some of them in person, others I spoke to on the telephone. I recall speaking to some of them in person in the Palace of Moncloa. Others I do not recall to clearly, because it was already quite some time ago."
Pina dropped the subject and made a cutting remark:
"Mister Urkullu will clarify this point."
The Ministry of Finance warned the State Attorney General's Office 9 times
During the turn of attorney Francesc Homs, Rajoy had to explain why he stated in parliament that the Catalan government had not spent "a single cent" on the referendum. Homs asked him how this statement could be compatible with the accusation of misuse of public funds, and Rajoy replied by stating that the Ministry of Finance contacted the State Attorney General's Office 9 times with the suspicion that public funds could be used for the organisation of the referendum:
"As it received documents from its intervention in the Catalan government, whenever it saw something that could be used for the referendum, the Ministry of Finance gave due notice the State Attorney General's Office or the State Audit Court. It did so 9 times. There is a second nuance, which is that some headings may have been hidden; however, it is not the task of the government to discover this, but that of the courts of law."
The events of 20 S
With regard to the events of 20 September, he referred to the "harassment" of law enforcement forces that took place:
"I find it extraordinary to hold a demonstration with over 20,000 people and a very high authority in Catalonia with a megaphone, making statements I do not believe anybody in this Court would find normal, in front of the building of the High Court of Justice of Catalonia.
I also feel that the situations of harassment against Guardia Civil officers, police officers, mayors who differed in their opinions from those of the authorities in Catalonia and who were defending them, which was tantamount to defending the law, are not normal in the least."
- Catalan independence trial