Catalan officials kick off witnesses testimonies in independence trial
Judge vetoes use of Catalan in court by Esquerra MP Joan Tardà, who justifies protests and rejects "any use of violence" for political purposes
Witnesses began giving testimony in the trial of the Catalan independence leaders in Spain's Supreme Court on Wednesday, after the last of the defendants testified on Tuesday.
The Esquerra Republicana MP in the Spanish Congress, Joan Tardà, was the first to take the stand, although his attempt to speak in Catalan was overruled by the judge, who said he should have previously requested it.
Continuing in Spanish, Tardà denied that protests were a way to "coerce the state," arguing: "It is a way to move social ideas forward within the democratic framework and regimen of freedoms."
September 20 rally "spontaneous" and "not violent"
Tardà went on to tell the prosecution that the protests against Spanish police raids on Catalan government buildings on September 20 felt "spontaneous" and were by no means "violent."
In fact, the MP rejected any use of violence for political purposes, saying: "Neither Spain's unity nor Catalonia's independence are worth a minimum degree of violence."
"Neither Spain's unity nor Catalonia's independence are worth a minimum degree of violence"
Joan Tardà · Esquerra's MP in Spain's Congress
Tardà was followed by Carles Puigdemont's predecessor as Catalan president, Artur Mas. Mas was investigated for this case after attending some meetings during the 2017 independence bid, but was not charged.
Deal with Madrid "absolute priority," says Mas
Tardà was followed by Carles Puigdemont's predecessor as Catalan president, Artur Mas, who was investigated for this case after attending some meetings about the 2017 independence bid, but was not charged.
Confirming that in 2016 he met with some Catalan government members now being prosecuted, Mas, who gave up the presidency in January 2016, said they did not ask him for "advice on holding the 2017 referendum."
Mas also said that in the meetings he attended, officials didn't rule out unilateral independence "100%" so as "to avoid losing capacity to negotiate," but that the "absolute priority" was reaching a deal with Madrid.
"The Catalan government always wanted to remain within a legal framework to avoid legal vacuums," added the former president, who also pointed out that "we had the recent experience of Scotland in 2014."
Mas also told the prosecution that in the meetings he attended no one suggested "controlling" the Catalan police so as to ensure the referendum went ahead.
Former People's Party ministers to testify
After Tardà and Mas, it will be the turn of some former key Spanish ministers from the Mariano Rajoy cabinet, which responded to the declaration of independence by suspending Catalonia's self-rule.
Rajoy's former deputy, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, will testify on Wednesday morning. She was in charge of the Spanish government's regional policy during the height of the conflict.
The former Spanish finance minister, Cristóbal Montoro, will be among the other witnesses, and will declare immediately after Sáenz de Santamaría.
Montoro famously told the press that "no public money was spent on the referendum," after his department closely controlled Catalonia's finances in 2017. This, if true, would contradict the allegation of misuse of public funds that all the former Catalan government members face.
Set for 4pm, Rajoy himself will take the stand this afternoon.