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Spanish officers used 'minimum force required' to stop vote, former security head tells court

In week 4 of trial of independence leaders, José Antonio Nieto justifies police tactics during referendum and calls Catalan police reaction "insufficient"

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04 March 2019 12:16 PM

by

ACN | Madrid

"The force used was the minimum required," Spain's former secretary of state for security said about the Spanish police operation to stop the October 1 independence referendum, in his testimony in the Supreme Court on Monday morning.

José Antonio Nieto was the first to testify in week 4 of the trial of Catalan independence leaders, arguing that the situation on October 1 was the "worst case scenario," as the "Catalan police did not intervene, and the level of resistance was higher than expected.”

“There were assaults against Spanish police and Guardia Civil officers," said Nieto, who also described the Catalan police intervention during the independence referendum as "insufficient, ineffective, and guided by objectives other than impeding the vote."

In fact, the former secretary of state was generally critical of the Mossos d'Esquadra, saying, "we were told that the Catalan police were enough to guarantee public order. I didn’t agree after watching images from September 20."

  • "Court orders made it clear that the referendum must be stopped"

    José Antonio Nieto · Former Spanish secretary of state for security

Nieto told the court that the protests on September 20 against a Spanish police operation to stop the referendum "concerned" the Spanish government of the time. "We were concerned about the consequences of the disturbances, he added.

Soon after, the Spanish authorities deployed 6,000 police officers from all over Spain in Catalonia with the goal of preventing the vote: "Court orders made it clear that the referendum must be stopped," said Nieto.

Catalan police chief "totally aligned" with government, says Nieto

Spain's former security head also told the court that the Catalan police did not seize any referendum material nor close any polling station ahead of the vote, and he accused former Catalan police chief, Josep Lluís Trapero, of being “totally aligned" with the government.

Referring to the the security coordination meeting between the Catalan and Spanish governments ahead of the independence vote, Nieto said: "It was surreal sitting at the same table with those who called the referendum."

“There was not even the smallest gesture towards engaging in real dialogue," said the former secretary of state for security about the attitude of Catalan officials during the independence crisis. "They came with an idea, and left with the same idea," he said.

Witnesses due to testify on Monday

Nieto was due to be followed on the stand on Monday morning by the Spanish government delegate in Catalonia during the referendum, Enric Millo, who in turn is to be followed by the official then in charge of the Catalan home affairs department, Juan Antonio Puigserver.

The current Catalan parliament speaker, Roger Torrent, is scheduled as the last witness to give testimony on Monday morning before the lunchtime recess.

In the afternoon, due to testify are the deputy parliament speaker at the time, José María Espejo-Saavedra, along with other former Catalan parliament officials and MPs: David Pérez Ibáñez, Antoni Bayona Rocamora and Xavier Muro Bas.

Neus Munté, the Catalan government spokesperson before stepping down in July 2017, will be the last to testify on Monday. 

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