'I was afraid to leave the building' - legal secretary from September 20 raids testifies

Monsterrat del Toro describes what she saw at the rallies from inside the economy ministry, key to determining whether or not there was violence used

Catalan government department of Economy with protesters on September 20, 2017
Catalan government department of Economy with protesters on September 20, 2017 / ACN

ACN | Madrid

March 6, 2019 02:55 PM

A key witness from the September 20 Spanish police raids and subsequent pro-independence protests in Barcelona ahead of the independence referendum takes the stand on day 12 of the Catalan Trial.

Montserrat del Toro was a legal secretary who took part in the raids and said that, while inside the economy ministry building, outside which the demonstrations were taking place, she was "afraid" to leave the building, as she saw "a sea of people waiting for us in case we left the building using the front door,” as she told the court this morning.

She also explained in her testimony how she was again scared to leave the building in the evening. She explained that later in the day of the raids, still inside the department of economy, "I heard a loud noise, and then I saw several people pressed against the glass door. I was afraid."

She also told the court that Jordi Sánchez, one of the leaders of the rally, told her that “he couldn’t do anything” to move people away from the entrance of the building.

Del Toro also testified that she heard people chanting slogans outside such as: 'We will vote', 'They won't leave [the building]', and 'They shall not pass.'

The occurrences of this day have become a contentious point and a focus of the trial, as much of the prosecution’s case for violence, and consequently rebellion, depends on it.

“I didn’t put my head out the window at any moment, as police officers recommended me not to do it,” Montserrat del Toro explained.

Activists Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, who are charged with rebellion for having called those rallies, and are facing 17-year prison sentences. Del Toro said in her testimony that she saw both Sánchez and Cuixart inside the building on September 20. 

Leaving the economy ministry

The legal secretary described her exit from the economy ministry building, accompanied by a Catalan policeman to the court. According to del Toro, in order to leave the building safely, she had to be escorted through a theatre adjacent to the building they were in, while having to wait “around 30 minutes” in the dressing rooms with police officers and actors from the theatre.

“We started running, because there were protesters just 2 meters away. We got into an unmarked police car. It was past midnight,” del Toro said.

Montserrat del Toro also told the court that she requested a helicopter to leave the department of economy building, as she felt the only safe way to leave was by air, however her request was "laughed at" by police officers. 

'Unionist' Facebook group question rejected

During the cross-examination of the defense lawyers, Andreu Van den Eynde asked del Toro if it’s true that she follows unionist and anti-independence Facebook groups, but the courtroom president Manuel Marchena rejected the question.

The Supreme Court has decided not to show the face of Montserrat del Toro in its live streaming, as she requested, in order to protect her identity.

Her testimony came after the continuation of Diego Pérez de los Cobos, the Spanish police official who was in charge of law enforcement actions on October 1, 2017, carried out to stop the referendum.