Interior minister denies giving ‘orders’ to mayors over referendum
Miquel Buch, leader of an association of towns in 2017, appears in high court to answer charges of pressuring local governments to support independence vote
Catalan interior minister Miquel Buch and Vilanova i la Geltrú mayor Neus Lloveras told Spain’s High Court of Justice in Catalonia (TSJC in Catalan) on Tuesday that they made "recommendations" to mayors around the country about how to act in the run-up to last year's independence referendum but did not give them "any orders."
Both officials appeared before the high court to answer charges of disobedience in their roles at the time as the heads of two associations of towns.
At that time, Buch was mayor of Premià de Mar, a coastal town north of Barcelona.
According to the officials, emails they sent to mayors in their organizations were aimed merely at "setting the scene for territorial support for the October 1 referendum," and that each local authority was free to make its own decisions about what to do in relation to the vote that was ruled illegal by the Spanish judiciary.
The prosecution alleges that Buch and Lloveras contacted mayors in their organizations, pressuring them to confirm the availability of local facilities where the vote could be held, encouraging them to show support for the referendum, and providing them with pro-independence campaign material.
In their court appearances, which lasted less than half an hour, Buch and Lloveras provided similar testimony, according to judicial sources. Apart from highlighting the independence of each local authority, they also pointed out that the associations they led are private, and that the emails were sent to all mayors, including those belonging to unionist parties.
What's more, both officials told the high court that they were not notified that Spain's Constitutional Court had ruled the referendum to be illegal until after they had already sent the aforementioned emails.