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Catalan police ‘had no goal other than obeying court orders,’ says Trapero about referendum

Former Mossos chief defends in court operation to stop referendum despite Spanish police accusing him of allowing the vote


14 March 2019 04:03 PM


ACN | Madrid

Catalonia’s former police chief Josep Lluís Trapero has refuted accusations that the law enforcement agency facilitated holding the independence referendum on October 1, 2017, and stressed that they always complied with Spanish judicial orders to stop the vote.

“The Catalan police operation had no objective other than complying with court orders,” said Trapero in Spain’s Supreme Court on Thursday, speaking as a witness in the trial against politicians and activists involved in the 2017 independence bid.

Trapero is one of the most highly anticipated witnesses in the trial, as he was the head of Catalonia’s own police body (known as the Mossos d’Esquadra) until the Spanish government took over Catalan institutions following a declaration of independence and imposed direct rule from Madrid.

  • “The Catalan police urged the government to comply with legality and court orders, because that’s what we were going to do"

    Josep Lluís Trapero · Former Catalan police chief

Accused of rebellion—as are most defendants in the Catalan trial—Trapero faces an 11-year prison sentence, requested by the public prosecutor. His case is being handled in a separate court, and he therefore accepted to appear in the Supreme Court as a witness.

Trapero's name had already emerged on a number of occasions during the trial, with the colonel appointed to coordinate Catalan and Spanish police bodies during the referendum, Diego Pérez de los Cobos, accusing Trapero of not doing enough to stop the vote.

Trapero admitted to there having been “tensions" with De los Cobos, claiming they had different criteria regarding the use of force.

Some 1,066 people were ultimately injured by Spanish police attempts to disrupt the referendum, according to Catalan government figures.

While De los Cobos claimed that Spanish police only intervened after realizing that the Mossos “had no intention to stop the vote,” Trapero defended that Catalan police actions were part of a broader operation also encompassing Spanish law enforcement, which the latter took the lead in dealing with security issues.

Trapero calls Forn "irresponsible"

In his testimony as one of the accused, former interior minister Joaquim Forn stressed that while he defended the referendum as a member of the Catalan government, he never told Trapero to disobey court orders.

Trapero confirmed his former superior’s account of the facts. Yet, he acknowledged that some comments Forn made ahead of the referendum—for instance, he famously claimed that the Mossos would allow the vote to take place—made him “uncomfortable" and deemed them as “irresponsible.”

In his testimony, Trapero said that given the "seriousness" of the situation, the Mossos had a unit of officers ready to detain the government two days before Parliament voted to declare independence. He also said that he reported this at the time to the judicial authorities.

As for allegations that Trapero and the Mossos colluded with the government in the independence bid, the former police chief said he asked or a meeting with the former interior minister and Puigdemont to urge them to call off the referendum and follow court orders.

Former Mossos officials close ranks with Trapero

This statement is in-line with the testimony of former Catalan police officials last week, such as Manel Castellví and Emilio Quevedo, who defended Trapero and the Mossos, and declared that the former chief had asked the Catalan government to call off the vote.

“The Catalan police urged the government to comply with legality and court orders, because that’s what we were going to do,” Trapero told the court, and said that ahead of the vote the Catalan police stressed to government that they had “public order" and “safety" concerns.