Misc 20/02/2019

The former Catalan minister Turull’s harsh replies to the Spanish public prosecutor

The former Catalan minister calls the prosecutor’s account of the violence "delusional"

Mariona Ferrer I Fornells / Ot Serra
4 min
Jordi Turull durant l'interrogatori al Suprem

A bitter, drawn-out face-off, lasting almost three hours, between Jordi Turull and the prosecutor Jaime Moreno during the fourth day of the trial of the independence referendum in Madrid’s Supreme Court. The former Minister of the Presidency, who combined a technical defence with a strong political argument, defended the "pacifism" exhibited by the independence movement, when asked by the prosecutor if a climate of "violence" prevailed after 20 September. "Not in the least", Turull declared, before describing any attempt by a political party to "suggest that to achieve its goal, violence is needed, even passively", as "doomed to failure". He added that "no matter what stories you might want to invent, no matter how much Catalan society is portrayed as violent, such an argument holds no water, as well as being outrageous”.

After the cross examination by the prosecutor and the solicitor general and a recess for lunch, Turull's lawyer, Jordi Pina, took the floor, with a series of brief questions of a technical nature lasting just fifteen minutes. Pina also read out a series of Turull’s tweets in which the former minister called on people to behave “in a civic-minded way”, "peacefully" and "calmly". Turull finished by reading the words of former President Carles Puigdemont before the declaration of independence, in which he once more called for dialogue with the Spanish government. He recalled that their guiding principles were "always invoking peace" and "civility". Turull was followed by former Foreign Minister Raül Romeva, who only replied to questions put to him by his lawyer, Andreu Van den Eynde, in a cross examination which lasted an hour and a half compared with Turull's four-hour marathon.

The sparring between Turull and the prosecutor was relentless: "The people of Catalonia aren’t like lambs, they aren’t militarized, whether or not they support independence, they think for themselves". Such was Turull’s reply to the prosecution’s attempt to portray the independence movement as being led from the top rather than as being a organised from the bottom up. From the outset, Turull insisted that the people themselves were compelling the political parties to hold the referendum and pointed out that the pro-independence groups "always opted for dialogue with the State". Speaking of the declaration of independence of 27 October, unlike the former Interior Minister, Joaquim Forn, Turull argued that it was voted on in full. He did not go so far as to say that it was put into effect, but he insisted that it was a "political statement".

Turull called the National Pact for the Referendum, which sought a referendum in agreement with the Spanish government, as "the sole agreement between 4,000 associations". When asked whether the intention was to increase the "level of conflict" –as the document 'Enfocats' argues, which Turull declared himself to have no knowledge of– the former minister enquired rhetorically how the intention could be to seek "conflict" if 4,000 associations had united to find a solution with the Spanish government. "The word ‘surrender’ doesn’t exist in the Catalan dictionary", he added in reference to attempts to negotiate a referendum. Regarding possible "doubts as to whose orders the Catalan police would follow", Turull, the former-leader of JxSí (1) in the Catalan parliament, emphasised that Carles Puigdemont, then president of the Catalan government, "always insisted" that the Catalan police would comply with their duties as judicial police.

"Being a constitutionalist must be a breeze"

Turull tried to distance himself from the accusations of the crime of disobedience by declaring that on "25 occasions" the Spanish government has failed to respect sentences by the Constitutional Court "without receiving a reprimand or legal sanction". "Being a constitutionalist must be really easy, since it allows you to disobey the Constitution whenever you fancy", Turull declared. "I’ve spent a year in prison as the result of a court order for acts which don’t constitute a criminal offense [declaring once again that organizing a referendum is not illegal], and then they say we aren’t on trial for our ideas".

With reference to the crime of misappropriation of public funds, Turull insisted that "not one cent was spent on the referendum". Moreno showed him the Catalan government document in which the ministers agreed "jointly and collectively" to be held responsible for all actions aimed at making the 1 October vote possible, including "purchasing" and spending commitments. Turull responded that there is no "factual evidence" which shows that the plans went ahead, adding that at the time the referendum law had not been suspended by the Constitutional Court yet. "And what about all the previous resolutions?", the prosecutor asked him in reference to the commission to study the constituent process and other resolutions, which Turull argued "had nothing to do with the referendum".

The former Minister of the Presidency also denied that his government had the intention of paying for advertising campaigns and tried to disassociate them from the referendum, as well as the alleged contracts with Unipost. "The invoices haven’t been paid and nor will they be, since the campaign was free", Turull declared in reference to the adverts featuring a railway track on TV3 and Catalunya Ràdio. For the first time Turull declared that it was not an official campaign for the referendum because neither he nor Carles Puigdemont liked what was originally planned: it was not sufficiently "neutral" as it featured a "bird in a cage".

Unlike last week, the president of the court, Justice Manuel Marchena, was forced to intervene on several occasions not to shield the accused from the prosecutor, but to ask Turull "not to use the cross examination as an excuse to give value judgments". The former minister remained defiant when the prosecutor asked if he is a member of Òmnium Cultural (2), reminding him that it wasn’t even a crime during the Franco era and that he was "astonished" by the question. He went on to list a number of social and humanitarian organizations of which he is also a member.

Turull began by criticising Marchena's decision not to allow simultaneous translation from Catalan into Spanish during the trial and he reproached him for allowing consecutive translation, for purely "emotional" reasons. As far as Turull is concerned, being able to speak Catalan during the trial was a matter of "guarantees". Turull declared that "there’s nothing new about it" since nowadays you can hear translations into Spanish live on TV. "You shouldn’t see the cost of buying headphones for the public in the courtroom as an expense, but rather as an investment".

It appears as if the court expects that this week it will be possible for all the defendants to be cross examined, since the timetable for witness testimonies has already been released. One of the first witnesses to be called will be the former Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy, on Tuesday afternoon.


Translator’s notes:

(1) Junts pel Sí was a Catalan political alliance and parliamentary group focused on achieving the independence of Catalonia from Spain

(2) Òmnium Cutural is a grassroots pro-independence organisation with over 130,000 members.