Misc 21/02/2019

Catalan Ex-Minister Bassa in court: "Independence was proposed as something to be negotiated"

Unlike Junqueras and Romeva, she was willing to reply to questions from Prosecutor and State Attorneys

Mariona Ferrer I Fornells / Ot Serra
3 min
L'exconsellera de Treball Dolors Bassa durant la declaració en el judici del Procés al Tribunal Suprem.

MadridThere was a change of strategy by Dolors Bassa with respect to Oriol Junqueras and Raül Romeva, her party colleagues in the 1-O government. In a very measured, moderate, and calm tone, resorting to few political statements, the former Catalan Labor Minister replied to questions posed by prosecutor Fidel Cadena and the State Attorney, while her fellow ERC members opted to stick to their own attorney's questions only. She did not respond, however, to the popular accusation represented by the far right Vox party "out of respect for the women of Spain." "Zero tolerance," she said about the party that is seeking 74 years in prison for her. The public prosecutor is asking for 16 years in prison and disqualification for rebellion aggravated by misappropriation of public funds.

Bassa pointed out that she does not believe that holding a referendum is a crime, but gave a different account of the path followed by the Government leading up to October 1. "Independence was always considered as something to be negotiated. Evidence of that is the fact that we are here and we are not independent," she said, framing the referendum as an "act that was not conclusive" for independence, but rather a way of acting that would "lead to dialogue, negotiation, and agreement". The ex-Minister framed it within a context in which the Junts pel Sí [Together for Yes] parliamentary group had reached a dead end in its agreement with the CUP and, after considering whether to go to snap elections, the "consensus" decision was "to hold a referendum as a form of commitment by the institutions to the people."

Bassa was also the first to recognize the "authority" of the Spanish Constitutional Court (CC) and assured that all decisions of the Catalan government were suspended after receiving notification of suspension of the laws of Transition and Referendum. However, she admitted that the measures were not reversed and framed it as a "legal jurisdictional conflict" with the State, as is the case with other conflicting laws between the Spanish government and the autonomous administrations —she listed up to 18 conflicts just within her department. "We did not believe that it was a crime [to call a referendum], as the Spanish government had not resolved some of the rulings," she said, in this case in line with the rest of the defendants, supporting her argument in the decriminalization referendums that was carried out in the reform of the Spanish criminal code in 2005.

1-O, the first time she heard talk about a unilateral declaration of independence

In response to her lawyer, Mariano Bergés, she defined the October 27 declaration of independence as a "political and peaceful act" and specified that "absolutely nothing was done" in order to pursue independence afterward: it wasn't even communicated to international organizations or to embassies. She also said that when the Together for Yes coalition ran in the elections, its platform did not include unilateral independence. "The first time I saw the possibility of a declaration of independence was in the messages between president Puigdemont and Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy," explained Bassa, who reproached the Spanish government for not eschewing direct rule, if the Generalitat had agreed to call early elections.

Regarding the alleged misappropriation of funds, she denied, just like the rest of the ex-Ministers, that even a cent was spent on the referendum because the Spanish Finance Ministry had imposed a "iron grip on and a very strict monitoring of" the finances of the Generalitat. As to the ballot boxes, she said, like Jordi Turull and Josep Rull, that she did not know where they had come from.

Where she fully agreed with the rest of the ex-Ministers was in opposing the narrative of violence. "The only unpredictable variable of 1-O was the totally inappropriate actions of some —not all— members of the Spanish police and the Guardia Civil," she stated. In addition, she said that she could think of “1,000 ways to prevent" the referendum without assaulting the people. Among them, the Spanish government could have "invalidated the results" or impounded the ballots once voting had finished. In this context, she recalled the [non-binding] vote on November 9, 2014.