Former police chief in court denies cooperating with 2017 independence push

Trapero suggests he should have been informed of Spain's law enforcement plans in key rally ahead of referendum

Catalan police former chief, Josep Lluís Trapero, in the dock in the opening day of his trial, on January 20, 2020 (by Pool EFE)
Catalan police former chief, Josep Lluís Trapero, in the dock in the opening day of his trial, on January 20, 2020 (by Pool EFE) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

January 20, 2020 03:39 PM

The former chief of the Catalan Mossos d'Esquadra police, Josep Lluís Trapero, defended his actions during the 2017 independence push, on the first day of his trial and that of other members of the former Catalan police leadership.

From the words of the official sacked in October 2017, it was clear that he denies any cooperation with the independence bid in the days leading up to the 2017 referendum, or any "close relationship" with the then Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, or the then leader of a major pro-independence civic organization, the ANC's Jordi Sànchez, who is now in jail.

Trapero, for whom the prosecutor has requested 11 years in prison on rebellion charges for supposedly colluding in the attempts to bring about an independent Catalonia, was asked about his organization's role in the key rally on September 20, 2017 outside the economy department, which was being raided by Spanish police.

He said that his duty was to make sure "the protest took place in good order and without it affecting either the people or the police operation" – during the inquiry, he was accused of "inaction" and of not giving orders to help the legal secretary in charge of the raid to leave the building.

While in the dock on Monday, Trapero was asked by the public prosecutor why his officers did not charge protesters during the 16-hour protest.

"We thought that a public order operation could get out of hand," he replied.

It was also pointed out to Trapero that the police did not provide a cordon so that the officials raiding the building could get in and out easily – and he responded that the Mossos were unable to do that because they were unable to plan it in advance.

Mediation and argument

During his cross-examination, the prosecutor asked why Trapero had several phone calls with Jordi Sànchez that day, and the former chief responded that he aimed to "mediate" with a leader of the protesters.

Such mediation "is the Catalan police model from 2013" when dealing with demonstrations, he added, although he revealed he had an argument with Sànchez at some point. "One of the conversations ended badly. He called me angrily and I responded that he had no right to tell me how to carry out a police operation."

Communication with Spanish police

Trapero also complained that Spanish law enforcement had not warned the Catalan police of their plans before raiding the public buildings. "Saying 'tomorrow we'll launch operations that will affect public order' is not breaching the secrecy of proceedings," he said, specifying that he did not need to know the reasons for the raid or the people being investigated, but at least the fact that an operation would take place.

According to Trapero, trying to make a cordon in a packed street with thousands of protesters would have meant "spreading" the anger elsewhere.

On September 20, 2017, a handful of Catalan government buildings were raided, with 15 officials arrested, in an attempt by the Spanish authorities to dismantle the logistics for the October 1, 2017 referendum.

Trapero "very uncomfortable" before referendum

Talking about events in the lead-up to the unilateral independence referendum, Trapero said he felt "very uncomfortable" about how things were developing, and reminded the government at the time that "dual legality" did not exist.

The former chief said that he "made it clear" to the government that the Catalan police would do "whatever the judges say," and he added that he considered some of the laws passed in parliament related to the referendum to be "nonsense".