Catalan ex-deputy police chief dismisses follow-up of Spanish officers as ‘totally false’

Juan Carlos Molinero tells Supreme Court that Spanish police head "never objected" to Mossos d'Esquadra plans for October 1 referendum

Catalan police second-in-command during the referendum, Juan Carlos Molinero, speaks in the Supreme Court (by EFE)
Catalan police second-in-command during the referendum, Juan Carlos Molinero, speaks in the Supreme Court (by EFE) / ACN

ACN | Madrid

April 4, 2019 12:17 PM

The Catalan police "never" kept tabs on other police forces "either during the referendum or at any other moment," the former deputy chief of the Mossos d'Esquadra, Juan Carlos Molinero, told the Supreme Court on Thursday, dismissing the allegations as "totally false."

In his testimony during the trial of Catalan leaders, Molinero also insisted that all the various police forces involved in the operation to stop the independence referendum on October 1, 2017, held “equal responsibilities."

The former deputy police chief also said that Diego Pérez de los Cobos—the Spanish Guardia Civil colonel in charge of coordinating the different law enforcement agencies during the referendum—”never objected to the Mossos operation planned for October 1.”

Molinero's comments come after a number of high-ranking Spanish police officials who have testified in recent weeks have cast doubt on the commitment of the Mossos d'Esquadra to fully cooperate in the attempts to halt the 2017 independence bid.

Catalan police operation on October 1 was “unprecedented”

Addressing allegations that the Catalan police did not do enough to carry out court orders to prevent the referendum, Molinero said the Mossos did not close down polling stations ahead of the vote because they couldn’t find any ballot boxes, ballot papers, or computers.

Molinero also justified the actions of the Catalan police on the day of the referendum, saying Barcelona could have become a “battlefield" between far-right and anti-fascist protesters had Catalan officers not been deployed to police their respective demonstrations.

The former deputy chief described the Catalan police operation on October 1 as “unprecedented,” and said he recalls “clashes" and “incidents" between Catalan police officers and voters on the day of the vote.

Mossos' actions "unaffected" by political leadership

Molinero also confirmed what a colleague had told the court a day earlier, that the then-president Carles Puigdemont said he would declare independence if there was an "extreme situation" or a "tragedy" during the vote.

Referring to the Catalan police's relationship with the government at the time, Molinero said that former interior minister Joaquim Forn, who is on trial, told the police leadership that he “would not meddle in the police operation during the October 1 referendum.”

Asked by Forn's defense lawyer whether the former minister's public remarks ahead of the independence referendum, in which he insisted the vote would go ahead, had “modified" the actions of the Catalan police on October 1, Molinero answered: “Not at all.”