Spanish court rejects international observers being present in courtroom during Catalan trial

Spain's former president accepted as trial witness; king and Puigdemont, rejected

Spain's Supreme Court in Madrid (by Tania Tapia)
Spain's Supreme Court in Madrid (by Tania Tapia) / ACN

ACN | Madrid

February 1, 2019 03:05 PM

Spain’s Supreme Court has rejected the presence of international observers in the courtroom during the trial against Catalan independence leaders, as requested by the defendants, who fear they will not face a fair trial.

With the trial due to start on February 12, nine Catalan leaders face charges of violent rebellion for their role in the 2017 push for independence. Some have been in pre-trial jail for more than a year.

Several groups requested to be present in the courtroom during the independence trial, including Amnesty International and members of the European Parliament.

The Supreme Court has dismissed the request from the defense teams, arguing that the trial will be broadcasted live: "Any citizen wishing to be an observer will be able to."

The court will allow two relatives of each defendant to be present in the courtroom. The original request was for five places.

The jailed pro-independence leaders will be able to give testimony in Catalan. The Supreme Court says it is "convenient" to have two translators present.

Rajoy accepted as witness; King Felipe and Puigdemont rejected

The Supreme Court has also decided that Spain's former president, Mariano Rajoy, will have to speak before the court as a witness, thus accepting the defenses' request.

His former deputy president, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, will also have to attend the trial, as well as Spain's former finance minister, Cristóbal Montoro, all three members of the People's Party.

The former Catalan president Artur Mas, Barcelona's current mayor Ada Colau, and the Catalan parliament speaker, Roger Torrent, will also be witnesses, along with the Basque president, Íñigo Urkullu.

Yet, the Supreme Court will not call Spain's King Felipe as a witness, as some defendants had requested, and it also vetoed the exiled pro-independence leaders, Carles Puigdemont and Marta Rovira.

International witnesses

However, the court will call a number of international figures to testify at the trial, including Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes and Slovenian MEP Ivo Vajgl. German politicians Felix Van Gründberg and Andrej Hunko will also be summoned, as will Danish MP Lars Aslan Rasmussen.

Also, Helena Catt, head of the International Election Expert Research Team, and Paul Sinning, director of the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, who observed the 2017 independence referendum, have also been called as witnesses.