On Monday Spain’s Public Prosecutor announced the penalties he will be asking for in the court case against the top brass of the Catalan police force during the 2017 independence bid: Major Josep Lluís Trapero, Superintendent Teresa Laplana and the ministry’s top political appointees (Cèsar Puig and Pere Soler). As was expected in the case of Trapero, Puig and Soler, the Prosecutor has dropped the counts of rebellion and, following the Supreme Court’s ruling in the recent case against the political leadership, he has chosen to press charges of sedition instead. However, the prison sentences being asked for are sill hefty: ten years, down from eleven. Nevertheless, the novelty is that the Prosecutor’s Office is now open to the possibility of convicting Trapero, Laplana and the top officials merely for a crime of disobedience, which does not carry a prison sentence. Trapero and Laplana would be suspended for a year and eight months and would be given a €60,000 fine.
It is worth remembering that at the start of the trial prosecutors Miguel Ángel Carballo and Pedro Rubira refused to change the rebellion charge for sedition and, therefore, the entire court case was centered around that. So what is the problem now? During the trial it has been clearly established that Trapero obeyed the Spanish law at all times during the failed independence bid. So much so that he even had a plan to detain Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and his entire cabinet. This has left the prosecution with egg all over their face and they have had to resort to an alternative plan to ensure that the former leader of the Mossos d’Esquadra is not fully exonerated.
They can try to present it any way they like, but accusing someone of rebellion —an extremely serious offence— only to accept that the whole thing my boil down to an act of disobedience is totally outrageous. The contrast is so enormous that it exposes a blatant lack of professionalism which shouldn’t go unpunished in the Prosecutor’s Office. The reputational damage inflicted on Trapero cannot be repaired. Even in the unlikely event that he should be found non guilty of disobedience, nothing could remedy the damage done. A non-guilty verdict is the only course of action, judging by the evidence presented alone. Still, the precedent of the trial against the independence leaders does not invite optimism: there is a great deal of pressure in Madrid for Trapero to be made an example of.
However, if Trapero were convicted only for disobedience, what would happen with the Catalan leaders who have been sentenced to long years in prison? It should be emphasised that their conviction for sedition was largely based on the role played by the Mossos d’Esquadra on September 20 and October 1, 2017. How can the convictions still stand, if it turns out that the chief of the Catalan police played no part in the alleged separatist conspiracy? How could you justify the conviction of Joaquim Forn, then Catalan minister of the interior and Trapero’s boss?
To sum up, Trapero’s trial has exposed how flimsy the evidence which got the political leadership convicted was and the narrative that was built to support their convictions. Of course, whether that will have any actual consequences in Spain is a different matter altogether.