Observers slam Marchena for cutting off defence questions about Spanish police violence during independence referendum

They believe this practice jeopardises the defendants’ right “to legal counsel and a fair trial”

International Trial Watch, the platform that has been sending observers to the trial of the Catalan leaders in Madrid, issued a statement on Monday outlining their conclusions about the last few court sessions. Among other issues, ITW criticises Justice Manuel Marchena, president of the tribunal, for “cutting off” the defence lawyers during witness cross-examination, “especially when they were pointing out a contradiction or trying to contrast their testimony against other evidence”. The platform highlights the fact that this was more frequent “when the subject of police violence against 1-O voters cropped up”. According to their statement, this jeopardises the defendants’ “right to legal counsel, to a level playing field and, ultimately, to a fair trial”.

That is one of the conclusions in the report written by the four jurists who monitored the trial last week in Madrid’s Supreme Court, when the commanding officers of the Guardia Civil and National Police in Catalonia during the independence referendum appeared on the witness stand, together with the coordinator of the police operation against the referendum, Diego Pérez de los Cobos.

The assessment of week four of the trial by the four observers indicates that Justice Marchena, who presides over the Supreme Court, repeatedly interrupted the defence lawyers during witness cross-examination, thus preventing “the verification of the credibility” of some testimonies, which they feel “is akin to allowing, among other things, the trivialisation of police violence on October 1, 2017 [the day of the independence referendum]”.

Furthermore, the observers voice their “utmost concern” over the fact that the witnesses were allowed to follow the session before taking the stand, which they thought “was particularly significant this week”, when high-ranking police officers were questioned after having heard their own superiors’ statements. This “might have led to them weaving an accusatory narrative that was hardly spontaneous”.

The observers also queried the fact that Sebastián Trapote, who was the head of the Spanish Police on 1-O and denied having ever been indicted by a court of law when he took the witness stand, even though he “had shot someone in the back and killed them in 1974, as was revealed by the press later”. The International Trial Watch press release remarks that “none of that was mentioned when the witness was questioned by the judge before the cross-examination began and we wonder what the court’s stance will be following such an oversight”.

The observers who wrote the report are Mónica Aranda, Associate Professor of Criminal Law at the University of Barcelona, Jorge Correcher, Assistant Professor of Criminal Law at the University of Valencia, Gustavo Palmieri, a professor with Argentina’s Centre for Legal and Social Studies, and Hadi Cin, a lawyer and member of the board of the Contemporary Association of Lawyers.

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