The main defendant in the trial against the Catalan leaders of independence declared himself a political prisoner when he took the tribunal in the Madrid court on Thursday where he was accused, together with eleven others, of the 2017 bid to break out of Spain.
Oriol Junqueras, the former Catalan vice president, effectively refused to recognize the court and only agreed to ask questions to his lawyer and not to the public prosecutor. "This is a political trial and I refuse to answer my accusers," he said. "I am a political prisoner and I am tried for my ideas."
Junqueras is one of the twelve politicians and grassroots activists who stand trial because of their share in the illegal referendum and the unilateral declaration of independence in Catalonia in 2017. Nine of the accused, including the former speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell, are accused of rebellion, which has a prison sentence of up to 25 years.
"Nothing we have done is a crime and we are innocent of the crimes we are accused of," said Junqueras, the leader of the Republic of Republic party, during two hours of interrogation by his lawyer, Andreu van den Eynde, on the third day of a trial that is expected to last up to three months.
"We are the republicans first and then separatists, but above all we are democrats," he said. "We are convinced that a republic of Catalonia is the best way to create a just society, we have always pursued this goal and will continue to do so regardless of the outcome of this trial. & # 39;
He insisted that the Catalan regional election was held in 2015 as a popular vote on independence, and given the fact that separatists won the majority, they carried out their democratic mandate by pursuing independence through a referendum and unilateral statement.
Manuel Marchena, the president of the seven judges who dealt with the case, had previously rejected a request to Carles Puigdemont to appear as a witness.
"He can not be a witness in the morning and a witness in the afternoon," said Marchena about the former Catalan president, who lives in self-imposed exile in Belgium and said that he expects a new European order for his arrest . issued soon.
Marchena also excluded simultaneous translation from Catalan to Spanish, claiming that this had not been requested at any time during the 16 months of the previous hearings. He gave the right of defendants to answer in Catalan, but with a successive instead of simultaneous translation.
Junqueras said at the beginning of his testimony that he liked to speak in Spanish, so that he would be understood as widely as possible. His decision to conduct a political defense may put him at odds with his co-defendants, but some of them are expected to challenge legal challenges against the accusations.
After Junqueras it was the turn of Joaquim Forn, the former Minister of the Interior, to stand up. He agreed to be questioned by the prosecutor. Forn, who was in charge of the Catalan police, the Mossos d'Esquadra, said it had never acted in a way that violated the constitution.
He insisted that the armed forces obey the instructions of the high court to prevent the referendum of October 1, and claimed that it was the largest operation it had ever carried out.
The work of the day was overshadowed by comments from Irene Lozano, the secretary of the state for Global Spain, who compared the independence referendum with rape.
"They wanted a referendum, but they did not have permission," she told Sky News. "If you use sex as a metaphor, if you do not have permission, it's rape."
Lozano later tweeted that the referendum sowed divisions, but admitted that her choice of words was a shame. Global Spain was established to improve the image of the country at home and abroad.