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For the third time, the appeals chamber of Spain's National Audience has corrected decisions made by the original investigating judge in a key Catalan independence case. It has now ruled that six Civil Guard officers who carried out the investigation against 13 members of pro-independence CDR groups, accused of terrorism in 2019, in the so-called Operation Judas case, must testify. The investigating judge Manuel Garcia-Castellón had refused to allow the officers to declare as witnesses as requested by defence lawyers on the grounds that their actions were already included in the report and the reasons for them appearing were not sufficiently justified. In the two previous instances when the appeals chamber made corrections, it ordered the judge to allow the defence teams access to all the information in the case, such as the complete audio recordings resulting from police monitoring of the defendants' mobile phones.

In the new ruling, the appeals chamber of the National Audience did agree with the judge that the defences did not sufficiently detail the reason for their request, but it admitted the appeal based on the need to guarantee the right of a defence. "The appeal does give reasonable detail of the reasons for the request for the officers to appear, indicating that basic aspects of the origin and development" of what was a "purely police-led investigation" had not been revealed. And it went on to argue: “It is true that in the investigation of these characteristics, without a specific criminal action that determines the focus of the investigation, and that revolves around the actions of several people under investigation for the alleged integration into a terrorist organization in the process of being created, the report is based on the actions of the agents, which is thus important." On that basis, the Audience concluded that the right to defence of the defendants has to be guaranteed.

Spectacular operation

Operation Judas made headlines across the Spanish state in September 2019, just days before the verdicts in the Supreme Court trial of the Catalan independence leaders were due to be announced, when the Civil Guard staged a spectacular 500-officer operation to arrest nine alleged CDR members. Most of them were held in preventative jail for weeks. 

The claims, amplified by some Spanish media, that evidence had been found of a violent pro-independence "terrorist group" gradually became more diluted, but in September 2021, the judge sent 13 defendants to trial. He asserted, using the same phrasing as the prosecutor in the case, that in the autumn of 2017, when the independence process in Catalonia did not succeed, “a part of the citizenry had a feeling of frustration” and some of them, like the defendants, opted for violent actions. One of these planned actions was to occupy the Catalan Parliament, allegedly commissioned by a "Catalan intelligence agency", which would let them in through the front door, and that the operation would have a budget of about 6,000 euros.

The judge also detailed the evidence against each defendant and the material found in their homes and computers. He adds that the experts conclude that they carried out tests with explosive materials on a farm in Sant Fost de Campsentelles, in the summer of 2019, and that they describe it as "one of the laboratories". The defendants were followed and in some cases, tracker beacons were attached to their vehicles in order to follow them and monitor their conversations.

Those now accused of belonging to a terrorist organization are: Eduardo Garzón, Esther Garcia, Sònia Pascual, Queralt Casoliva, Germinal Tomàs, Alexis Codina, Jordi Ros, Rafael Joaquín Delgado, Ferran Jolis, Xavier Buigas, David Budria and Clara Borrero. In adddition, several are also charged with offences of possession of explosives: Garzón, Garcia, Pascual, Casoliva, Tomás, Codina, Ros, and Delgado

Case closed against one of the defendants

In further news on the case of the CDRs accused of terrorism, the National Audience has closed the case against Sabadell resident Xavier Duch, one of the nine originally arrested on September 23rd, 2019, for medical reasons, as reported today by the legal aid group Alerta Solidària. Duch's lawyer, David Aranda, says that the suspension is due to his health condition, which prevents him from having a defence with due process. Out of respect for his privacy, the condition from which he has been suffering for a long time has not been revealed.