EDITORIAL

The second-in-command of the Catalan police during the referendum debunks the prosecution’s version of events

Ferran López contradicts witness statements by Colonel Diego Pérez de los Cobos

The testimony given by Ferran López, second-in-command of the Mossos under Josep Lluís Trapero at the time of the October 2017 referendum, was itself somewhat paradoxical. The PP government appointed López as head of the Mossos when it brought in direct rule by triggering article 155 of the Constitution and dismissing Trapero. Therefore, López is testifying as someone who was seen as trustworthy by the PP’s Minister of the Interior at the time, Juan Ignacio Zoido. So what happened? López espoused the exact same narrative as Trapero, in declaring that the Catalan police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, did not provide any support for the referendum. He was even able to give further details, since from a particular date López reported directly to Spain’s Colonel Diego Pérez de los Cobos.

López's testimony was very revealing as to what happened during the period in question. He declared that the had Mossos prepared an operation for the referendum which nobody queried, and they were banking on the support of Spain’s National Police and the Civil Guard. However, at 8am on the morning of the 1 October, they found themselves alone, since the other security forces decided to act on their own without consulting the Catalan police. One could easily conclude that the Mossos had fallen into a trap, and that De los Cobos had never had the slightest intention of carrying out a joint operation. On the contrary, he wished to take advantage of 1 October to point the finger at the Catalan police while simultaneously discrediting and delegitimizing it in the eyes of a part of the Catalan public. Only a few months earlier, following the 17 August attacks on the Ramblas in Barcelona, Catalan society was the proudest it had ever been of its police force.

Ferran López also gave details of the meeting which the high command of the Mossos held with President Puigdemont, Vice President Junqueras and Interior Minister Forn to warn them not to go ahead with the vote as it might result in unrest on the streets due to the presence of 15,000 police. According to the former head of the Mossos, Puigdemont responded that if a confrontation were to take place between the voters and the police, he would declare independence. The prosecutor might attempt to use López’s words to claim that the Catalan government was planning a rebellion based on violence by the voters, but this would be a highly distorted version of the events. If anything, because Puigdemont did not declare independence on 1 October, despite the police violence.

The most important aspect of the statement is that it contradicts in almost every regard the version of events given by the police and Spain’s Interior Ministry in terms of the Mossos’ actions during the time in question. Furthermore, they have managed to contradict themselves, since if the Mossos were supposedly party to a rebellion, it would make no sense for the Spanish government to appoint a member of its high command as its leader after imposing direct rule. If Ferran López agreed with all his superior’s decisions, as he declared yesterday, and Trapero is being prosecuted for rebellion, why is López not also sat in the dock? Quite simply because even set-ups have a limit.