“We have to call things by their proper name,” said prosecutor Javier Zaragoza. “What happened between March 2015 and October 2017 in Catalonia was a coup d’état, and that is what the accused were aiming for.” After four months of trial, the Spanish public prosecutors insisted on their initial argument: Catalonia’s bid for independence was violent. This is what they stated in their closing arguments, delivered on Tuesday. Indeed, the violent narrative is key to charge the political leaders on trial with rebellion. If convicted, the defendants could face up to 25 years in jail.
“The object of this trial has nothing to do with the criminalisation of political dissidence” but the defendants’ attempt to “attack the constitutional order through coercive methods and used violence at those times when they believed it necessary”, Zaragoza said.
Spain prosecutors acknowledged that the independence push did not involve an armed uprising and caused no deaths. However, they argued that the defendants promoted violence by calling a referendum they knew to be illegal and, when told by Catalan police that it would probably lead to clashes with national security forces, called for more people to participate.
“Without physical violence it would not have been possible to cross the necessary bridges on their road map to independence”, prosectuor Jaime Moreno argued.
“Violence and the use of force can’t be put on the same level”
The State’s solicitor opted to charge the defendants with sedition rather than rebellion by making a distinction between the use of violence and “the use of force.”
Far-right party Vox, which acts as popular acusation in the trial, kept their rebellion request. They called for a “dissuasive” sentence for defendants so that “no one dares” carry out “sophisticated coup attempt” . Yet the maximum sentence they ask for is 74 years, with a joint figure of almost 700 years behind bars.
Defence to give their closing arguments next week
The 12 pro-independence leaders’ lawyers will try to refute Spain’s public prosecutor claims on June 11 when they give their closing arguments.
Spain’s criminal code rules that rebellion charges need to include accusations of violence. The public prosecutors used the witness testimony from dozens of Spanish police officers to argue that 2017 referendum voters weren’t peaceful. And they also tried to prove that the officials in the dock were behind this alleged violence.
The defence will insist on the difference between violence and peaceful resistance, which is what they claimed it actually happened during the 20-S protests and the 1-O referendum in 2017.
Moreover, they will point out that Catalonia’s Delcaration of Independence was symbolic, never came into force and therefore didn’t breach the Constitution. Thus, the political leaders could be acused of disobedience, which under Spanish law don’t carry prison sentences.
After the prosecutors’ remarks, some defense lawyers talked to the press, calling the speeches “political,” suggesting that this confirms their claims that it is a political trial.
They also said the prosecution’s closing arguments showed “a poor legal basis and a poor basis of evidence.”