Jailed VP defends Catalan self-determination in court
Oriol Junqueras tells judge that organizing referendum is no crime and “not a cent” of public money was used while activists Sànchez and Cuixart denounce "criminalization" of movement
In a court appearance on Monday, the jailed Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras defended Catalonia’s right to self-determination and told the judge that calling a referendum is no crime. Deposed vice president Oriol Junqueras made a 40-minute appearance in Spain’s Supreme Court, where he is charged with rebellion and misuse of public funds for his part in the push for independence. Also in court today were MP Jordi Sànchez, former president of the civil society organization Catalan National Assembly, and Jordi Cuixart, activist from the cultural group Òmnium Cultural. They also denounced the "criminalization" of the pro-independence movement.
Answering questions from his lawyer, Junqueras said the Esquerra Republicana (ERC) party he heads has for decades stood for an independent Catalonia without it ever being questioned. What’s more, the vice president insisted that “not a cent” of public money had been used to organize the unilateral referendum on independence on October 1, and he condemned the “intolerable” hardline tactics used by Spanish riot police to prevent the vote from taking place.
While Junqueras pointed out that numerous attempts were made by Catalonia’s pro-independence executive to engage the state government in dialogue, he went on to stress the pacifist nature of his political activities. In fact, Junqueras denied that any violence had been committed by the independence movement and was not even considered “as possible” by the Catalan government.
The vice president was also critical of the legal process he is subject to, arguing that he should not be tried in the Spanish Supreme Court but rather in Catalonia’s High Court of Justice (TSJC). Junqueras also claimed that the legal proceedings against pro-independence leaders are an attempt to nullify a political movement and are thus an infringement of political rights.
Jordi Sànchez, number two of Carles Puigdemont party JxCat and former activist, criticized the Spanish Supreme judge for not being "impartial". "You cannot be both judge and victim of the independence roadmap," he told him in court. In his statement before the judge, Sànchez also urged the magistrate to respect his political rights and allow him to attend Parliament to be voted as president. The judge denied him permission to attend the vote despite the UN Committee on Human Rights urging Spain to take "all measures" needed to respect his political rights.
For his part, Jordi Cuixart, president of Òmnium Cultural, read before the judge a statement in defense of the Catalan right to self-determination. Cuixart also warned that rights of assembly, protest and expression are being violated in Catalonia, and insisted that the independence movement have always been peaceful.
Junqueras, Sànchez and Cuixart are prosecuted for rebellion, while the vicepresident also faces charges of misuse of public funds.