Former Diplocat head denies international observers hired for referendum
Albert Royo says team of foreign experts was hired to write a report on Catalan-Spanish relations
The Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (Diplocat) didn’t hire any international observers for the independence referendum, according to its former secretary general Albert Royo, who gave his testimony in Spain’s Supreme Court on Wednesday.
On day 15 of the Catalan independence trial, prosecutors tried to prove the accusations of misuse of public funds against former Catalan government officials, in the dock for calling a vote on independence despite Spain’s opposition.
According to police reports, the Catalan administration paid €217,656 to a team of international experts to oversee the vote on October 1, 2017.
Summoned trial witnesses Paul Sinning and Helena Catt, two researchers who visited Catalonia during the referendum, notified they wouldn’t be attending the afternoon session of the trial on Wednesday. Instead, they are expected to give their testimony on March 27.
"How come what we did in 2017 is seen as a crime due to the political situation, when we were already doing it in 2015 and 2016?”
Albert Royo · Diplocat former secretary general
Royo denied that international experts who visited Catalonia during the independence crisis were hired to act as observers on referendum day, but rather, their role was to write a report on the political conflict between Catalonia and Spain starting from 2010.
He didn't deny that Diplocat paid for their travel expenses and accommodation in Barcelona.
Diplocat: suspended and reactivated
A public-private partnership aiming to improve the image of Catalonia abroad, Diplocat has repeatedly been criticized by unionists as a “propaganda tool” for independence plans.
When the Spanish government took over Catalan institutions following a declaration of independence, one of its first decisions was to dismiss Royo and order the liquidation of Diplocat.
Last July, with pro-independence parties back in power, Diplocat was reactivated.
"Aiming for plurality"
Albert Royo told prosecutors that the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia was independent from the Catalan government and only sporadically did it work together with government offices abroad.
He also stressed that the organization always aimed for plurality when organizing conferences and workshops, both in Catalonia and abroad, and reached out to both pro-independence and unionists groups.
Denying any involvement in preparations for the October 1 referendum, Royo stressed: “We only did our job: explaining the reality of Catalonia abroad. How come what we did in 2017 is seen as a crime due to the political situation, when we were already doing it in 2015 and 2016?”