Witnesses defend ‘plurality’ of Diplocat in Catalan trial
Diplomacy body under scrutiny for alleged use of public funds to promote independence bid abroad
Witnesses have defended in court the “plurality" of the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (Diplocat), come under scrutiny for allegedly using public funds to internationalize the independence bid.
Two scholars, a politician, and a union leader were summoned to give their testimony on day 36 of the Catalan trial, with 12 politicians and activists sitting in the dock for calling a referendum and declaring independence in 2017, despite Spain’s opposition.
The four witnesses were members of organizations overseeing the work of Diplocat, a public-private partnership promoting Catalonia abroad, which unionist parties see as a tool serving the interests of the independence movement.
While presenting himself as a “political rival" of the defendants, Gerardo Pisarello, the deputy mayor of Barcelona, stressed that Diplocat always stayed “plural" when tackling political issues, inviting both experts for and against Catalan self-determination to its conferences.
“Not only did [Diplocat] talk about the independence movement, but also about social and economic issues"
Daniel Garcia · UGT union member
Daniel García, a member of UGT, Spain’s largest union, explained that the organization “was neutral and let everybody explain their political position.” He also recalled that “not only did [Diplocat] talk about the independence movement, but also about social and economic issues.”
In a similar line, Antoni Millet, the director of Barcelona’s Center for International Studies (CEI), highlighted Diplocat’s “plurality" when organizing academic debates.”
The director of the Barcelona Institute for International Studies (IBEI), Jacint Jordana, denied that Diplocat acted as an arm of the Catalan government diplomacy to “explain the independence movement to the world,” but rather it helped “internationalize Catalan society.”
When the Spanish government suspended Catalan autonomy and imposed direct rule in the fall of 2017, one of its measures was to shut down Diplocat and start dismantling the organization.
The organization has recently resumed its work, more than a year after pro-independence parties won the election to the Catalan parliament and reclaimed control of the government.
Non-violence activists take the stand
In the afternoon session, former CUP party MP David Fernàndez took the stand. Present during the protests against Spanish police raids in the run-up to the 2017 independence referendum, Fernàndez described the demonstrations as "absolutely peaceful."
🔴 David Fernàndez takes the stand in the #CatalanTrial. A former MP for the far-left CUP party, he was present during the protests against Spanish police raids in the run-up to the 2017 independence referendum, which he describes as "absolutely peaceful" pic.twitter.com/Wbesupd0Cm— Catalan News (@catalannews) April 25, 2019
The former MP also said he knew the referendum had been ruled illegal by Spanish courts, adding: “If self-determination is a crime, I declare myself guilty and a repeat offender. And as long as it remains a crime, I’ll continue to disobey until it becomes a democratic right.”
MP for the pro-independence ERC party, Ruben Wagensberg, also defended protests on September 20, 2017, against Spanish police raids, saying: "Catalan citizens engaged in the greatest act of civil disobedience I've ever seen."
Meanwhile, another ERC MP who was present during the protests, Jordi Orobitg, said that “the most aggressive thing I saw on September 20 was a man throwing an empty plastic bottle at the police, and people reproached him for that.”
As for Bernat Picornell, a senator for the ERC party, he said there was a “festive atmosphere" during the protests in front of the finance department on September 20, 2017.