Towards Wednesday noon, before the witnesses had finished giving their statements, the presiding magistrate of the Catalan independence trial, Manuel Marchena, opened the expert evidence phase.
He did so with a report from Inland Revenue requested by the State Attorney General and the Government Attorney's Office to prove that there was misuse of public funds on October 1.
Some of the defence counsels have challenged this report, which was drafted by four high-ranking civil servants in the ministry.
Riba: "It may give rise to defencelessness"
Josep Riba, the defence counsel of Carles Mundó, has stated that the way in which it was drafted "may violate or give rise to defencelessness", and he has also complained that they are not aware of its contents:
"We understand that it is not being submitted with sufficient constitutional guarantees to the right to defence, because we are not aware of its contents beyond its generic contents, which is accepted at the request of the prosecution and in the writ of accusation, but we are unaware, in essence, of the contents of the expert evidence."
Likewise, Mariano Bergés, from the defence team of Dolors Bassa, has stated that this weakens the ability of the defence counsels to cross-examine in the public hearing:
"It is true that there would be a contradiction at this moment, because the defence counsels would be allowed to ask questions on the conclusions reached by the experts, but the fact is that this would be a formal contradiction rather than an effective one."
Other defence counsels have joined these considerations, but the reasons for the challenge have not convinced the presiding magistrate of the court, Manuel Marchena.
Marchena compares it to a report requested by the defence counsels
In response, Marchena compared this expert report with the report requested by the defence counsels of Junqueras and Romeva on police officers injured during October 1:
"The Court has accepted expert evidence requested by the defence counsels of Messrs. Oriol Junquera and Raül Romeva on the aetiology of the injuries suffered or alleged by the police, and yet this evidence does not include or has not include any previous reports that may act as a reference for that which is intended to be proven."
Marchena has ensured that "an expert witness report is not being made in a vacuum".
"The right moment" according to Madrigal
The public prosecutions have defended the expert evidence: prosecutor Consuelo Madrigal followed Marchena's line of argument and stated that the challenge should have been submitted earlier:
"We would like to highlight the extemporaneousness of the challenge being put forward in the sittings of the public hearing, taking into account that the evidence was proposed on 2 November, was accepted by this Court and that the proposal specified the contents and the purpose of the evidence."
"However, after it was accepted by this court, it was not subject to any challenges from any of the defence counsels. The right moment would have been in their respective provisional writs of complaint."
Prosecutor Consuelo Madrigal, next to Jaime Moreno, addressing Manuel Marchena on Wednesday
State Attorney Rosa María Seoane also argued this point:
"We must defend the firmness of the ruling whereby the evidence was accepted. Not only did they have the chance to submit any written pleadings in their writs of defence, they could also have requested and challenged the interlocutory ruling for the evidence, which they failed to do."
Rosa María Seoane, addressing Manuel Marchena on Wednesday
Trial suspended to analyse the challenge
In any event, Marchena suspended the trial for a few minutes to finish analysing the challenge requested by the defences with the Court, but, when the sitting was resumed, the conclusion was that it was not accepted.
Marchena defended it according to the main argument of the parties to the prosecution, namely that this challenge has not been made within its deadlines. He has also stated that he does not deem it to give rise to defencelessness.
In any event, he added that if, during the testimony of the expert witnesses, any kind of defencelessness should arise, there are mechanisms to face it:
"If, throughout the expert witness statement, there should be any elements in which you detect a situation of defencelessness, we believe that there are procedural mechanisms through which you may alleviate or neutralise this defencelessness."
Upon that, he asked the prosecution to begin the expert witness phase with the statement of the four authors of the Inland Revenue report requested by the State Attorney General and the Government Attorney's Office.
"Actions of the Generalitat related to October 1"
According to the statement of María del Carmen Tejera, state attorney and expert author of this report, the referendum caused damages to public funds:
"Wherever there is one Euro of public funds there are control mechanisms. In this case, the mechanisms had been intensified, not to say more acute, in light of the circumstances."
"This was the work of the research team with regard to this physical evidence, to which we must respond in the affirmative: acts or actions of the Generalitat or its autonomous public sector related to 1-O, with the ensuing damages to public assets."
In their statement, the expert witness stated that there were commitments to make payment for events related to the referendum, even if they were ultimately not paid, and they added that the commitment is still in force.
They related it directly to the bills issued by the CCMA to broadcast the commercial with the train tracks and they stated that the general intervention of the Generalitat did not inform Inland Revenue.
- Catalan independence trial