On Thursday morning, right after the former Catalan minister of Entrepreneurship and Knowledge, Santi Vila, former ANC president Jordi Sànchez took the stand at quarter to 12.
The former president of the ANC answered questions from the State Attorney General, represented by prosecutor Javier Zaragoza, and he opened by declaring himself a political prisoner.
Sànchez also stated that "the facts" used by the State Attorney General and the Government Attorney's Office to accuse him are "false":
"I deem myself a political prisoner. This is a political trial and I believe this is my obligation as a citizen who intends to answer before the truth, and, faced with a court that proclaims its will to be impartial, I would like to give it a chance to prove it."
"And since I am convinced that all the facts levelled at me by the State Attorney General's Office and the Government Attorney's Office are false, I am not afraid of answering and offering the truth to my fellow citizens."
The roadmap of the ANC
When questioned by the prosecutor by the so-called "roadmap" of the ANC, Sànchez defended that such tools are very common in a number of fields, and that "these elements are mere statements of intent".
Sànchez specified, however, that when the ANC roadmap was approved, he was not the president of said association:
"Everyone uses roadmaps. A few weeks ago we could hear about Sánchez's government and the Spanish Socialist Party discussing their roadmap; this is quite a normal concept, and all roadmaps are statements of intent endowed with the value of political intentions. The roadmap towards independence approved by the ANC was drafted when I was not the president of the association, but I am familiar with the document."
Citizen mobilisations, "a basic element of a state governed by the rule of law"
When asked about his role leading the ANC, Sànchez defended its function in mobilising people, and he pointed out its legitimacy and the legality, even when working towards the independence of Catalonia:
"Citizen mobilisations are a basic element in a state governed by the rule of law, and the purpose of said mobilisations is to generate cohesion and social majorities."
"There is an unambiguous will and desire, namely independence which, as the Court is well aware, in this country, in a Constitutional Court ruling on not having a militant Constitution and democracy, it is perfectly legitimate to formulate independence as my own wish and that of the ANC."
In this regard, Sànchez complained that the accusation questioned "perfectly peaceful demonstrations":
"The indictment contains a number of references and sections that seem to clearly question demonstrations that were absolutely peaceful in the strict exercise of the right to demonstration and protest. This, among other reasons, has led me to consider myself a political prisoner, a conscientious prisoner, because I am convinced that I am before this court for having been the president of the ANC."
"Let us defend the institutions"
The prosecutor has devoted the bulk of his questions to the facts of 20 September 2017 before the headquarters of the ministry of the Economy in Barcelona, which is the basis of the charges of rebellion.
Sànchez stated that he did not recall the details of how he became aware that there were searches being carried out by the Guardia Civil and the judicial delegation of Court number 13 of Barcelona, nor of with whom he had spoken or when.
He did state, however, that the initiative of the protest was not exclusively his:
"The Court should be aware of a reality that took place on that 20th of September, in which this mobilisation was carried out to protest, only to protest, this judicial decision, under the argument "Let us defend the institutions".
This proclamation was not exclusively mine, nor was it exclusively the ANC's. On that same day, throughout the morning, such varied and different institutions as the CCOO and UGT trade unions, the 8 chancellors of the public universities of Catalonia, all public universities, entities such as sports associations, and I could go on..."
A "human wall"
Sànchez admitted that he published a tweet at 8:20 on 20 September to call the protest in front of the ministry of the Economy, and that he "scrupulously notified the appropriate administration, as always."
He added that, when he arrived there, there was already quite a crowd that offered an "image of absolute normality" that he defined as "a human wall", and that he attempted to enter the ministry but the Guardia Civil did not allow him to:
Jordi Sànchez: "When I arrived there, there was already a human wall and I was not aware that the vehicles of the judicial delegation..."
Prosecutor Zaragoza: "Around the vehicles?"
Jordi Sànchez: "Yes, the images from the door of the building to where they were parked, the building was full of journalists and people, some of them public office holders, who blocked the view. I honestly did not notice the vehicles until I returned two or three hours later."
Sànchez explained that, at noon, he received a call from the Catalan minister of the interior, Joaquim Forn:
"I received a message or a call, I do not remember, around 12:00 PM, from the Catalan minister of the interior, Joaquim Forn, in which he told me 'you should help us with security', as we often did in demonstrations with the association's volunteers, namely, the stewardship service established by the law and which is required for all demonstrations. He told me 'you should clear a space, a corridor, to guarantee access to whoever the judicial delegation requires,' because there were a great many people who attended that demonstration."
Calls to Trapero and Laplana
The prosecutor made a number of questions concerning the calls Sànchez made to the Catalan government and the police.
Sànchez answered that Forn referred him to Major Trapero who, in turn, referred him to superintendent Laplana to coordinate the ANC's stewardship service.
According to him, 2,000 people were expected to attend, but the actual figure significantly surpassed this number. The prosecutor asked him how many, and Sànchez joked about the figures given by the press, 60,000, greater than those calculated by the Barcelona municipal police, 40,000.
Sànchez stated that he did not give a figure, but the prosecutor refuted him, saying that, in his first statement, he gave a figure of 50,000, upon which Sànchez apologised.
Sànchez stated that, in spite of the crowd, the demonstration remained festive throughout the day in spite of its activism, and orders were given to coordinate ANC volunteers to act as a stewardship service.
"I was not in charge of security"
Faced with the questions of the prosecutor that seemed to imply this, the former ANC president pointed out that he was not in charge of the security of the demonstration:
Prosecutor Zaragoza: "You were responsible for what was happening there."
Jordi Sànchez: "No, no, I was in charge of what the Catalan police had requested from me that morning, namely, to open a corridor. I was in charge of that corridor insofar as this collaboration was requested from me. The obligation of someone who calls a demonstration and who is asked to collaborate to ensure its good functioning, whether or not this is a sound approach, I do not know, but my obligation was to collaborate with the Catalan police. And the Catalan policed asked this from me because the Guardia Civil had requested it: we had to open a path."
"And I offered collaboration but refused any responsibility, because I lack the capacity, the knowledge and the authority to do so. I know that there is a part of the narrative that attempts to cast this on me, and I heard it from the prosecution the other day, as if I was the coordinator in charge of security: this is utterly false."
"I was not in charge of the security of anything; I carried out some stewardship tasks. Security is the competence of the Catalan police and the Guardia Civil, and I would therefore like to deny the premise, I do not accept responsibility for any of this."
Faced with repeated questions from the prosecutor in this regard, he denied that the demonstration was an obstacle to the work of the judicial delegation or of the Guardia Civil:
"There was never a single person, neither mister Jové nor any other, who failed to attend the searches due to the demonstration being held in Rambla de Catalunya."
"The judicial delegation was carrying out its work perfectly normally. These are not my words, those are the words of the lieutenants in charge of the delegation before judge Lamela."
In this regard, Sànchez asked the Court to view the images recorded not by demonstrators or by the media, but by the security cameras of the ministry.
According to his statement, in the hours of recordings from that day, it is clear that, both within and without the building, there were no acts of violence against anybody, and not a single object was thrown at the doors of the ministry.
The Guardia Civil patrol cars
With regard to the only damage recorded on that day, the totalled or "devastated" Guardia Civil patrol cars, Sànchez explained that he learned about them in the afternoon.
The former president of the ANC condemned the damage caused to the vehicles but wondered how it could have happened:
"How could it be that there is not a single image not one, of how the damage was being caused to these vehicles?"
Sànchez had said that the damage "was not caused by a specific uprising" but, rather, due to an accumulation of individual actions throughout the day.
"I may be pro-independence, but I am not dumb"
When the prosecutor implied that someone may have charged the Guardia Civil itself with the damage, Sànchez lost his temper because he felt the words were being put in his mouth:
"I may be pro-independence, but I am not dumb: the Guardia Civil officers did not damage the vehicles, and I would ask you not to put statements in my mouth."
Sànchez closed the subject of the cars by stating that the damage to the cars was not discussed until morning.
The defence counsel intervenes and Marchena asks him to be silentL'advocat intervé i Marchena el fa callar
Jordi Pina, the defence counsel of Jordi Sànchez, on Thursday, intervening during the sitting of the Supreme Court
During questioning by the prosecutor, Sànchez complained that they wanted to read an excerpt from one of his statements during the investigation phase of the trial, and he asked the recording to be played, since he felt it would be more accurate.
At this moment Sànchez's defence counsel, Jordi Pina, complained that the prosecutor was hassling him to make him contradict himself, and the presiding magistrate of the Court scolded him thus:
Jordi Pina: "Only in the case that the prosecution and the Court should deem that what he is saying is in open contradiction with what he stated during the investigation phase..."
Manuel Marchena: "Listen, if the learned prosecutor wishes to ask a question to check it against the statements that were made, at this time..."
Jordi Pina: "That is what I am asking."
Manuel Marchena: "We will not issue a statement on the evidentiary value of anything and, most importantly, be so kind as to not interrupt me when I am speaking."
Jordi Pina: "I am sorry, My Lord, I did not intend to disrespect you."
Shortly before two in the afternoon, Marchena asked the prosecutor if he still had many questions to ask, to which he answered that he had a few. Upon this, the presiding magistrate adjourned the sitting until 4 PM.
A crowded agenda
After the statement by Jordi Sànchez, the only people left on the list of accused parties who have yet to take the stand are president of Òmnium Cultural, Jordi Cuixart, and former speaker of the Catalan parliament Carme Forcadell.
The presiding magistrate of the court, Manuel Marchena, intends to begin with the first witness statements on Tuesday next week, including that of Mariano Rajoy. In order to follow this schedule, Sànchez, Cuixart and Forcadell will have to give their statements first.
Since Marchena has already confirmed that there will be no sitting on Friday, the only option left is to hold trial on Monday so that Sànchez, Cuixart or Forcadell may make their statements so that the witness questionings begin on time on Tuesday 26.
Accusations and sentence requests
Jordi Sànchez, like Jordi Cuixart, stands accused of rebellion and sedition. The State Attorney General is asking for 17 years in prison for both of them, whereas the Government Attorney's Office is asking for 8 years.
With regard to Forcadell, she also stands accused of rebellion and sedition. The State Attorney General is asking for the same sentence as for Sànchez and Cuixart, namely 17 years in prison, whereas the Government Attorney's Office is asking for 10 years.
- Catalan independence trial