Former president of the Catalan National Assembly refutes the prosecutor's narrative of tumultuous demonstrations

Jordi Sànchez debunks claims of 'violence' in pro-independence marches

Prosecutor Javier Zaragoza began the part of the cross examination dedicated to the protest on 20-S [20 September 2017] which, in his opinion, typifies the alleged violence of the independence movement with this statement: "I won’t ask you about all the demonstrations and protests that took place between 2015 and 2017, since they were in line with people exercising their rights. Instead I will concentrate on 20-S". The former president of the ANC, Jordi Sànchez responded by thanking Zaragoza for his words which, he said, are inconsistent with the charges brought by the public prosecutor’s office. Sànchez went on to say that "This is not the stance taken by the public prosecutor in the indictment, which contains numerous references and sections where it seems to openly question whether the demonstrations were carried out in an entirely peaceful manner in the strictest exercise of the right to protest and the freedom of assembly". Sànchez complained that he has been indicted “for being the president of the ANC".

The provisional conclusions of the indictment which the prosecutor's office presented to the Supreme Court, describes Catalonia’s independence movement as a three-pronged effort: parliament, the executive branch and civil society. In terms of the social aspect, the document claims that "by mobilising the public, the ANC and Òmnium Cultural [the two main grassroots groups] played a key role in applying pressure on the Spanish government in order to force it into capitulating before the birth of a new republic". It goes on to say that both Sànchez and the president of Òmnium, Jordi Cuixart, "contemplated the use of any means necessary to achieve their objective, including violence", and claims that they intended to "make use of the intimidatory force arising from the tumultuous acts involving mass protests, which they instigated and promoted".

While it is true that the prosecutor's office places special emphasis on the 20-S demonstrations to substantiate the charges, it is also true that it speaks of multiple demonstrations in a chronological account in which it argues that the ANC and Òmnium intended to use "violence" as a last resort to achieve independence.

Thus, the document mentions the demonstrations which took place on Catalonia’s National Day in 2014, 2015 and 2016. In reference to the most recent, it specifically mentions Jordi Sànchez, accusing him of having encouraged the Speaker of the House, Carme Forcadell, to disobey the Constitutional Court if it were to discipline her for authorising the parliamentary vote which ultimately led to the referendum. It also mentions another demonstration, on 13 November 2016, in which it declares that Sánchez showed a "complete disregard for judicial authority", in warning that "Catalonia would not remain indifferent to any arrest warrants or charges brought against those elected to public office". In the same vein, the document mentions the protests on 6 February 2017 against the trial over the 9N vote (1) and states that "it was expressed" during these demonstrations that "the public had the opportunity to show they were willing to make personal sacrifices", and that "the time for demonstrations with a festive spirit was over".

Next, the document refers to the demonstration on 11 June 2017, in which it quotes Sànchez as having "issued a warning to the government of Spain declaring that the only way to stop the referendum from going ahead was by taking uncalled-for measures", since "it was the people's will to forge ahead and not turn back". It also talks about the 2017 National Day, in which Sànchez "announced that they were supposed to obey the Catalan Parliament only."

In this chronological account, and before referring to the protest of 20 September, the indictment by the prosecution states that with the referendum approaching, "disobedience and parallel legislation" were no longer enough. "It was necessary to oppose —with all the means at their disposal, including violence as a last resort— the fulfillment of judicial orders aimed at making it impossible for a referendum to take place". Likewise, it speaks of Sànchez and Cuixart's "starring" role, which "played such a significant part in the plans for a rebellion, and that, thanks to their command over the protest, they almost took over from the Catalan police".

It is not until this point that the indictment mentions the demonstrations of 20 September, which it calls "violent incidents", while declaring that both Sànchez and Cuixart "accepted the violent outcome which was likely to occur during the demonstrations when they incited those who were party to secession to take to the streets and oppose the security forces”.

Translator’s note:

(1) While also referred to as "Catalan independence referendum", the 9 November non-binding vote was called a "participatory process" by the government of Catalonia.

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