Misc 29/05/2019

Prosecution video exhibits fail to include footage of police charging voters on Catalan referendum day

Ot Serra / Montse Riart
3 min

MadridThe time has finally come when videos recorded on 20 September and 1 October can be shown in the trial of the Catalan political leaders, following the defence’s failed attempts to use them when cross examining prosecution witnesses in order to challenge their version of events. The exhibits proposed by the Public Prosecutor's Office showed scenes of confrontations outside polling stations, though the majority of them failed to show the police charging the crowd. The Guardia Civil were only shown using their truncheons at the Quercus seconday school in Sant Joan de Vilatorrada (Bages), where one of their officers was struck by a chair thrown by a protestor after the police smashed the school’s glass door. They also showed an officer falling over at La Roureda school in Sant Esteve Sesrovires (Baix Llobregat) and subsequently receiving a kick to the head, an incident which the former Spanish government representative, Enric Millo, famously described as the “Fairy liquid trap” [in reference to his claim that voters had poured washing up liquid on the floor].

Some footage was shown to illustrate the alleged hostility displayed by the voters, such as the tense atmosphere outside the Ramon Llull school in Barcelona and stones being thrown at Guardia Civil vehicles as they retreated from Sant Carles de la Ràpita (Montsià). Nevertheless, the defence teams plan to take advantage of certain videos shown by the Prosecutor's Office to support their case. These include footage taken at the Castell de Dosrius school (Maresme), where the Guardia Civil charged the voters at the school gates without having issued a warning.

The Prosecutor's Office intends to use the exhibits to support the testimony of the dozens of police officers who gave evidence during the cross-examination phase of the trial. One after the other, they claimed to have been victims of physical assaults and a target of thrown objects. However, the only instance of someone being injured in one of the prosecution’s videos occurred when a police officer was hit by a chair when entering a school. No images were shown of anyone being hit by a chunk of a wash basin or a motorcycle which were allegedly thrown by voters.

The court was also shown videos of police officers standing in front of members of the public shouting "we’re peaceful people" and "go home", in an attempt to support the idea that they prevented them from complying with the court order to stop the referendum from going ahead. For example, the Public Prosecutor chose a video of firefighters standing in front of the Guardia Civil in Sant Joan de Vilatorrada, crowds behind a barricade of tables and chairs in Sant Martí de Sesgueioles (Anoia) and a large group of people gathered outside the entrance to a polling station in Sant Cebrià de Vallalta, among others.

The State's Attorney, who was more thorough than the Office of the Prosecutor when specifying the exact date and time of the videos, focused on other aspects of the 1 October referendum. For example they showed footage in which the Mossos d'Esquadra were seen removing ballot boxes and election material from polling stations, as a crowd applauded. The video sought to support one of the prosecution’s allegations which sees the Mossos d'Esquadra as plotting with the Catalan government in refusing to comply with the order from the High Court of Justice of Catalonia to prevent the vote from going ahead.

The court was also shown videos of protests outside hotels which housed the police officers who were stationed in Catalonia during the referendum, although the Public Prosecutor was unable to identify either the date or the location. The defence lawyers for Jordi Sànchez, Josep Rull and Jordi Turull all protested the fact that the Public Prosecutor showed several videos supposedly covering 1 October, but included footage of the Spanish police leaving the CUP’s headquarters on 20 September surrounded by crowds of protestors. In fact the events took place on different dates and involved a police operation —in the case of the CUP headquarters— which had to be called off because the police didn’t have a search warrant. Following the lawyers’ protests, prosecutor Jaime Moreno stated that his intention was to show the "general atmosphere", regardless of where the events took place. At one point, Benet Salellas [Jordi Cuixart’s lawyer] was forced to correct the date of some footage taken on 8 November strike which the prosecutor had erroneously attributed to an earlier strike which took place on 3 October.