Defenses take stand for last time in independence trial

Proceedings will come to a close on Wednesday with defendants' closing remarks

Defense lawyers Xavier Melero and Andreu Van den Eynde listen to witnesses on April 10 2019 (by the Supreme Court)
Defense lawyers Xavier Melero and Andreu Van den Eynde listen to witnesses on April 10 2019 (by the Supreme Court) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

June 10, 2019 04:52 PM

The trial against the pro-independence leaders is expected to end this Wednesday, or Thursday at latest, after four months of proceedings and over 50 sessions.

Yet one of the most important parts is still missing: the closing arguments of the defenses, which will seek to refute the rebellion charges requested by the public prosecutor and far-right Vox party, acting as a private prosecutor – Spain's solicitor general denied rebellion charges and lowered their request to sedition.

On Tuesday each defense lawyer will have an hour to demand the acquittal of each of their defendants – the proceedings include 12 prosecuted leaders, which means the closing arguments of the lawyers can last up to 12 hours and may well go into Wednesday.

Time allowed for closing arguments "insufficient"

A platform of international observers of the proceedings, International Trial Watch, has criticized the fact that the defenses are only given one hour for each defendant. For them this time is "insufficient."

After these closing arguments, it will be the time for the defendants to put an end to the trial with their closing remarks – they will have 15 minutes each to make their case for a second and last time after their cross-examinations in February.

On Wednesday, the pro-independence civic organization Òmnium will show the prosecuted leaders' closing remarks with giant screens in several Catalan towns. In the evening, some demonstrations throughout the country are also expected. This rallies might be postponed one day if the sessions go into Thursday. 

What will happen after the end of the trial?

The court will then officially close the hearings and in some months – probably at the beginning of autumn – the verdict will be out.

Right after the last session, it is expected that the defenses request one more time the release of their clients – indeed, activist Jordi Cuixart's lawyers already did it right after the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention's calls for their release two weeks ago.

If their requests fail, they are expected to ask for their transfer to Catalan prisons, as they won't need to attend again the Supreme Court, in Madrid, until the verdict day.

If they get guilty verdicts, the sentence must be executed because it is a final one – yet their lawyers can still take the case to Spain's Constitutional Court and then the European judiciary.

An alternative way to avoid the sentence would be that the Spanish government pardons them – the Catalan Socialist leader Miquel Iceta suggested it in 2017, and on Sunday, he did not rule it out. "When we get to this river, we will cross the bridge," he said in order to avoid responding to this issue.

Snap election?

In parallel, the Catalan president has already said he will "not accept" a guilty verdict, but has not made clear what this will exactly mean. He said he will try to reach a consensus with the parliament in order to give a unitary response – he is already meeting some parties to reach unity in the independence camp –, but has not disclosed whether the response will be a snap election, or more powerful actions such as another referendum might be on the table.