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A Spanish riot squad policeman who took part in the operation against the 2017 Catalan independence referendum in Barcelona has admitted this Friday in court that he batoned the legs of a voter at a polling centre because the person would not get out of the way and was filming the police actions.

According to him, it was a "wake-up call", as the man had ignored him. The officer, from Spain's National Police force, is under investigation for an offence against moral integrity, and has been identified from a video in which he is seen beating a standing protester with his baton, in order to widen the police space once the officers were already inside the voting centre, at Dolors Monserdà School in Barcelona's Sarrià district. 

According to prosecution sources, the officer admitted to the judge of Barcelona court of instruction number 7 that there was no physical violence from the members of the public gathered there but there were "verbal" assaults, with "xenophobic and racist insults" from voters directed at the riot police. The officer acknowledged that the forces had a directive not to beat above the waist.

"Notorious" officer refuses to testify

On the other hand, this Friday two officers from the Spanish National Police who had been identified by an expert report as the pair responsible for violent actions against two voters at the IES Pau Claris secondary school in Barcelona refused to answer any questions set by the court investigating them. 

One of them is the officer who kicked a voter down the stairs at the school entrance, while the second officer threw another voter down the staircase. The scene of the violent eviction of members of the public from the stairway is one of the more notorious scenes filmed on the 1st October 2017 referendum day

In the expert report, prepared by experts from the Catalan Mossos police, several images are analyzed in depth in order to differentiate the location and clothing of the riot police who acted on the stairs of that polling station.

Public prosecutors defended the police action, while the Spanish government's legal representatives at the trial were critical of the expert evidence, asking the Mossos expert if he had medical knowledge, and advising the defendants not to answer any questions. In fact, this was the first time that National Police officers investigated in this case have refused to answer any questions. Up until now they have given responses when asked by the judge, prosecutor and their defence lawyers.

However, the officer who gave the flying kick, seen on the video, had already been questioned about another police action earlier in the day and in that testimony he was asked about the kick at the Pau Claris school. In this case, he acknowledged that he was present, while denying the specific facts of the kick. The private prosecution Iridia, representing many of the injured voters, presented a comprehensive submision with captured video images that identified this agent giving the notorious kick and then assaulting another woman.

The report also shows how a further officer violently shook a voter who had been previously thrown down the stairs. From this material, the judge requested the Mossos d'Esquadra to make a further expert investigation of the matter.

Investigations continue

At the moment, in Barcelona court of instruction number 7, a total of 63 people are under investigation for violence on the day of the Catalan referendum, 58 of them National Police force members. The police actions which are being studied caused 315 injuries, and 127 of those injured are involved in the complex case, which consists of a main investigation, focused on the direction and coordination of police action, and 27 sub-inquiries, each of these centred on one of the schools used as polling stations that day in the Catalan capital.

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