A robe for the esteemed representative ("but don’t let them give you a scruffy one"): the Homs trial, from inside

In the end, the PDECat representative didn't put on the attire offered by the judge. Ministers Rull and Borràs complained to an usher who wouldn't let them take seats reserved for the press: "We're Ministers of the Catalan government!"

Francesc Homs entered the lavish courtroom of the Supreme Court where he will be tried for his involvement in the 9-N consultation sporting a gray suit and blue tie. The president of the court, Manuel Marchena, however, offered to let him wear a lawyer's robe and sit next to his counsel while they questioned witnesses, starting this afternoon. This is allowed under the law for those defendants who are also attorneys, which is the case with Homs, although he doesn't practise law as such. But that didn't matter. From the presiding seat in the court room, higher up and more ornate than the rest of the court's members, judge Marchena made the effort to repeat the offer in a "generous" interpretation of the regulations.

“Don’t let them give you a scruffy one" said Homs' wife told him on leaving after the morning’s court session. Meanwhile, the representative's lawyer warned Homs that "you must be a member of the bar association" to wear a robe. He debated the advantages of taking the judge up on his offer, but in the end Homs took his lawyer’s advice. In the afternoon he sat with his lawyer at the counsel’s table, but without wearing the formal attire.

The jovial tone of the judge's offer contrasted with the words he exchanged with Homs at the very start of the prosecutor's interrogation, at the beginning of the morning session. "At home they taught me that you should wait until the other finishes before asking another question", protested Homs, visibly irritated by the prosecutor's interruptions. "This is the Supreme Court, not your house", Marchena reminded him.

The exchange portended a high voltage interrogation, but the tone soon softened. Body language showed that the prosecutor had relaxed: he leaned back into his chair and asked his questions calmly. Homs tamped down his irritation: “We got off on the wrong foot, but now we're starting to understand each other a little bit better and are getting used to the "give and take", he said to the judge, who had just silenced the prosecutor, as he realized that he had been interrupting the defendant.

Rull, to an usher: "We are Ministers of the Catalan government!"

The cross-examination was like a choreography. The dance between Homs and the prosecutor on the wooden floor surrounded by marble columns was watched closely by a group of politicians from PDECat and Junts pel Sí. For them, the Supreme Court had reserved the back seats in the courtroom. But Ministers Josep Rull and Meritxell Borràs tried to sit in the second row, where the fixed camera focused on Homs would capture them. A court usher invited them to move further back, to the rows reserved for the general public, but they refused. "Why?" asked Borràs.

The usher explained that the front rows were reserved for the press-- there was room for about thirty reporters, but there were only ten in attendance because they aren’t allowed to use their laptop in court, which is inconvenient. "We're Ministers of the Catalan government!" exclaimed an irritated Rull, whose only response from the usher was a new invitation to get up, this time without words, but with an unmistakable hand gesture. With a few hushed whispers, the two Catalan Ministers obeyed and moved back to the fourth row.

Farther back, members of their party and parliamentary group, including Lluís Llach, Miquel Calçada-- who nodded his head upon hearing Homs' arguments--, and Marta Pascal, had occupied seats reserved for the public without protest. Hissing could be heard in response to the prosecutor's comments that most irritated the pro-independence crowd.

During each recess, a group gathered around Homs, who shared impressions with those who had come to support him. There were good feelings about how the questioning was going, but the underlying conviction was that the legal battle is lost. "I admit it all", repeated the former Minister within the courtroom, but also that he didn't believe he had committed any crime in his actions.

The streets outside had been empty for a while. Those who had travelled in four buses, chartered by the pro-independence organizations, from Taradell--the defendant's hometown-- Barcelona, Tarragona, Lleida, and Girona, followed the trial on screens in the Generalitat's office in the Spanish capital. They arrived at the doors of the Supreme Court accompanied by Spanish police, who stopped the traffic for the passage, and by three or four pro-Spanish counter-demonstrators who shouted "You can't trick us, Catalonia is Spain", and accused Catalan politicians of being "thieves", thus seeking out and finding their minute of fame.