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Referendum websites in the spotlight as witnesses take the stand

IT experts will tell of the digital system used during the Catalan independence referendum

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06 March 2019 04:18 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

Digital entrepreneurs and IT workers testified in the Supreme Court in the trial of Catalan leaders on Wednesday afternoon, to give testimony on the digital tools used to enable the independence referendum on October 1, 2017.

Businessman and IT expert, Vicente Nos Ripollés, was the first to take the stand, saying he met the Catalan president and vice president in the summer of 2017, to discuss a blockchain voting system.

According to Nos, the electoral system they discussed would allow voting from abroad, at a cost of "some 400,000 to 500,000 euros." However, Nos did not accept the project, as "I didn't know who I had to bill for the work."

The next witness, Quim Franquesa, said he was contacted by Catalan official Xavier Vendrell, who asked him if he could "develop an electronic voting system," and was told the referendum "would be legal through a law to be voted on in parliament."

  • "The final outcome of the referendum website was nothing like the one I designed. The final design included a register for volunteers"

    Teresa Guix · Web designer

Franquesa also talked about payment. After presenting a project to top government officials, it was made clear to him that "the Catalan government would pay nothing, I think because their finances were blocked. They told us a third party would pay for it."

"We met with technicians from the Catalan government's IT center," Franquesa went on, adding that "the technical part was not clear, he didn't know who had to pay for it… So we decided to turn the project down."

Franquesa was followed on the stand by Teresa Guix, who designed a website promoting a pact for a referendum in Catalonia that she said aimed to "give information on the associations that would be in favor of an agreed referendum with Spain."

Yet, she said "the final outcome of the referendum website was nothing like the one I designed. The final design included a register for volunteers." She also said she refused payment after being summoned by a local court: "for 2,700 euros it was not worth having problems," she said.

"Didn't know government had warnings to stop referendum"

The heads of two communications agencies took the stand next, Olga Solanas and then Ferran Burriel.

Solanas was asked about an ad for the referendum published months before October 2017 but she denied seeing it. "I was only in charge of buying ad spaces in the press," she said.

As for Burriel's business, it took part in the ad campaign to promote a registry of Catalans abroad. Burriel said he "did not know that the Catalan government had had warnings to stop the referendum" when his company became involved in the ad campaign in March 2017.

The interim head of a public media corporation, Núria Llorach, did not testify, as she is under investigation by another court.

Newspaper editor denies payments for Oct 1 ad

The last witness of the day was the editor of the 'El Punt Avui' Catalan newspaper, Xevi Xirgo. He said his newspaper published an ad for the referendum in September 2017, but did not publish any others after getting a court warning.

Xirgo said the newspaper took the decision to publish the ad, which was taken from "social media," on its own initiative and received no payment in return.

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  • Website promoting an independence referendum in Catalonia

  • Website promoting an independence referendum in Catalonia

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