This Wednesday the court heard from international experts who are thought to have acted as observers on referendum day. On the 23rd day of the Catalan Trial against pro-independence leaders, they gave testimony on what they witnessed on the 1-O and the previous days.
German MP for the social democrats Bernhard von Grünberg was the first to address the court and started by denying that the Catalan Government paid for his visit. “I paid all travel expenses myself. That’s what I normally do when I travel for my work in the United Nations, because I want to remain independent. And I can speak both for myself and my colleagues: we all paid our expenses,” he said. Von Grünberg arrived in Catalonia two days before the 1-O. “My motivation was to visit Catalonia and talk with all parties. By no means was my priority acting as an observer or validating the vote” he said
On the referendum day, which he described as a vote “not organised by the state but by the civil society instead” , he visited “poll stations in Barcelona and Girona”. When describing what he saw there, von Grünberg explained that police officers “broke into polling stations, breaking doors, and clearing people out,” while people “injured by rubber bullets” were carried to hospitals. “I was impressed by the calm and containment of people in polling stations. They were clearly shocked by doors and windows being broken, but I didn’t perceive any violent attitude,” he said.
The former German MP described voters’ attitude as “determined” and “disciplined” and clarified both terms by saying that “they went to vote, waited many hours, were subject to intimidation, and didn’t resort to violence”.
Von Grünberg insisted that although he paid for the visit himself, it would have been “normal” for German political organisations to do so, since
“foster dialogue and international political contacts” is a common and positive thing to do. He also told the court that he believed in “democratic consensus to resolve the [independence bid] problem,” but courtroom president Manuel Marchena cut him off and said judges will not take his opinions into account, only facts.
Helena Catt, who worked as part of an international research team in 2017 assured that the group was “employed by Diplocat in order to conduct research on the ongoing context in Catalonia at that time, within a historic perspective” rather than being hired to “observe” the referendum vote and its conditions. Catt also clarified that despite being hired by Diplocat, the group was fully independent when drawing up a report on the Catalan-Spanish conflict.
Besides visiting some polling stations, she admitted contacting former foreign minister Raül Romeva and the former secretary-general of Diplocat, Albert Royo. She also visited some offices of the Catalan government and “attended briefings she was asked to attend,” adding that she didn’t visit the Spanish government delegation in Catalonia, as she “only went to see people who asked to” see her.