Independence on trial: Baena denies the defendants incited people to commit acts of violence

Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Baena gave evidence before the Supreme Court this Tuesday

MARIONA FERRER I FORNELLS / OT SERRA

The mastermind of the sedition thesis, the head of the judicial police of Spain’s Guardia Civil in Catalonia, Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Baena, gave evidence before the Supreme Court this Tuesday. At the very start of his cross examination he revealed that the National Court’s Prosecutor had ordered the Guardia Civil, acting as judicial police, to probe the independence movement as early as November 2015 following the Catalan Parliament’s vote to break away from Spain on 9 November, which was subsequently overturned by the Constitutional Court on 2 December. Most of the defence teams zeroed in on this point to show that a "general case against the independence movement" was already being built. Baena repeatedly evaded the defence’s questions until the presiding judge eventually came to his aid. Manuel Marchena declared that the initial phases of the investigation were of no relevance to the trial. He assured Jordi Sànchez's lawyer, Ana Bernaola, that "that the evaluation of events pertaining to the initial phases of the investigation has no bearing".

The Lieutenant Colonel gradually recounted the prosecution’s version of events —which is essentially based on his reports— during the cross examination when asked about members of the public demonstrating against the police operation in Catalonia ahead of the 1 October referendum. He declared that the protests began when the first witnesses were called to give evidence at the Guardia Civil headquarters in the spring and summer of 2017, but that the "turning point" came with the macro-operation of 20 September. "The protests grew in size and the atmosphere was clearly insurrectional in nature", Baena declared, which is why he went to Catalonia’s Ministry of the Economy with a detachment of Guardia Civil riot officers. In response to the prosecutor, he highlighted the fact that 20 September exceeded the "predicted level of danger" since civil organisations weren’t expected to "call on the public" to hold a demonstration outside the building.

However, in response to a question from the lawyer Andreu Van den Eynde, Baena admitted that throughout this "insurrectionary period" the independence leaders did not send "any messages calling people to act in a violent manner". On the contrary, he pointed out that, in his personal opinion, the independence movement "has made civility and pacifism its byword in innumerable demonstrations". Responding to the lawyer Ana Bernaola, he justified the fact that no arrests were made during any of the protests by stating that it was in order to "avoid greater problems".

Baena described the events in Catalonia from 19 September to 28 October 2017, when direct rule was imposed, as an "insurrectionary period". In his opinion, every member of the Guardia Civil, National Police and Mossos d'Esquadra "felt as if they were facing a ticking time bomb". "Every officer with any experience in security matters was well aware that the slightest incident could trigger an uncontrollable escalation, though fortunately it didn’t happen", Baena declared.

However, during the cross examination the Lieutenant Colonel threw off prosecutor Consuelo Madrigal when he pointed out that the use of force was not necessary during the 20 September protest outside the ministry’s HQ, in spite of what he described as an "insurrectionary atmosphere", since his officers’ "physical well-being" was not "seriously threatened". "I had a court order authorizing the police to use force in the event that any of my officers were physically harmed. However, there was no need to give such an order [...] since no one gained access to the ministry", Baena declared.

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