Bassa says referendum's aim was to ‘reach compromise’ with Spain

Former labor minister speaks in Spain’s Supreme Court in so-called ‘Catalan trial’ over independence bid

A screenshot of Dolors Bassa testifying in the Spanish Supreme Court
A screenshot of Dolors Bassa testifying in the Spanish Supreme Court / ACN

ACN | Madrid

February 20, 2019 06:12 PM

"The referendum was never planned as a conclusive act for the declaration of independence," explained the former minister Dolors Bassa, testifying at the Spanish Supreme Court; instead, the October 1 vote was a "commitment to the citizens" and a mechanism for reaching "dialogue and compromise" with Spain, she alleged.

"It was always clear to us that if a lot of people turned out to vote, it would help us when negotiating," said the former labor minister, adding that "independence was always seen as something to be agreed [with Spain].”

Bassa further said that the law which included transitional steps towards independence passed in the Catalan parliament in September 2017 was intended to work “in case there was a pact with Spain” after the referendum.

“We complied with what they ordered,’ argues Bassa

At the trial against her and 11 other pro-independence leaders, she said the Spanish Constitutional Court ruling on the referendum was “against what 80% of Catalans were demanding.” And, after the court suspended the referendum, Bassa insisted “not a single euro” was spent to organize the vote.

She also testified that she told the directors of the community centers that were to be used as polling stations to "comply with police and court orders." "I never imagined that there would be clashes during the independence referendum, because we complied with what they ordered,” stated Bassa on the stand.

16-year prison sentence requested

A member of pro-independence Esquerra (ERC) party, Bassa was the labor minister when the Catalan government held a referendum and declared independence in 2017. She is the sixth member of the cabinet led by the then-president Carles Puigdemont to give evidence in the proceedings, after Oriol Junqueras and Joaquim Forn (last Thursday), Jordi Turull and Raül Romeva (on Tuesday), and Josep Rull (Wednesday morning).

Bassa has spent a year in pre-trial detention. She was released on bail after spending a month in prison from November to December 2017, only to be imprisoned again in March last year. Spain’s public prosecutor requested a 16-year prison sentence for Bassa, who is accused of rebellion and misuse of public funds.

Trial should take place in "international court - observer

Just before Bassa's testimony, the international observer and expert in human rights, Paul Newman, argued that the trial should take place in an "international court," as he believes there is "a conflict of interests" trying the leaders in Spain.

Talking to the Catalan News Agency (ACN), Newman criticized the Spanish authorities, saying "they are the ones who attacked the Catalans" and thus are part of the case, meaning "justice" can only be guaranteed in a court outside Spain.

Invited to observe the proceedings by the International Trial Watch platform, the expert went on to predict that the trial "will create more complications" in the Catalan conflict. "Everyone has the inherent right to self-determination," he added.