Spain takes control of Catalan police

Prosecutor orders the Mossos to be managed from the Ministry of Home Affairs in Madrid amid referendum clampdown

Some Catalan and Spanish police officers guarding Catalonia's department of Economy on Wednesday
Some Catalan and Spanish police officers guarding Catalonia's department of Economy on Wednesday / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

September 23, 2017 01:03 PM

The Spanish government is taking control of the Catalan police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra. The Catalan police command will therefore be controlled from Madrid, and not Barcelona. The decision implies stripping the Catalan government of its policing powers. The prosecutor has ordered that the Catalan police, the Spanish National Police and Spain's Guardia Civil be managed from the Ministry of Home Affairs in Madrid. The decision, according to the prosecution, aims at "reinforcing the operation to prevent crime and to keep public order" a week before the October 1 independence referendum.

The decision was announced during a meeting between the prosecutor and the chiefs of the three police forces. In fact, the prosecution had already hinted at its intentions in a previous summit, after which the Catalan police chief, Josep-Lluís Trapero, asked for a written order on the issue. During the meeting, the prosecution criticized the Catalan police for not doing enough to stop the referendum.

Arrest of high-ranking Catalan government officials

On Wednesday, Spain's Guardia Civil arrested 15 people over the referendum. 13 of them were high-ranking Catalan government officials. They were released, in some cases after 48 hours in custody, and charged with misappropriation of funds, breach of official duty and disobedience.

Sedition lawsuit against the organizers of Barcelona rallies

On Friday, the Spanish prosecutor filed a sedition lawsuit demanding an investigation to identify the organizers of the street protests that took place in Barcelona against the arrests and to defend the right to self-determination.

The prosecutor said that the protests aimed “to forcibly prevent” security forces from carrying out their duties, making the organizers guilty of sedition. The crime of sedition includes all actions that impede the application of the law “through force or by illegal means”. The offence carries prison sentences of between four and 15 years.

The judge investigating the case for sedition, former Franco police inspector

The lawsuit against the rally organizers has been filed to the Spanish National Court. The judge who will decide whether sedition crimes were committed is Ismael Moreno, a former police inspector during the last years of general Francisco Franco dictatorship in the 1970s. The judge's background has created debate and controversy in Catalonia. Moreno has made the headlines with different cases.

For instance, between 2008 and 2009, he rejected investigating a francoist far-right group called Falange y Tradición, who had damaged some monuments tributing dictatorship victims. However, he did send two puppeteers to prison provisionally after a performance in which a puppet showed a poster with a message that some people understood as apology of ETA Basque terror organization.

Raids to dozens of Catalan government buildings

Spanish police also raided over 40 Catalan government buildings in a crackdown on the referendum. In recent days, they also confiscated 9 million ballot papers, 1.5 million posters and other campaign material. The referendum website was shut down by orders of the judge, but the Catalan government has managed, so far, to set up new ones.