The Catalan independence trial will end on June 12th. And it will have lasted exactly four months. As if the script were already written in advance, no one has shifted even a hair's breadth from the original plan. The public prosecutors have not changed their narrative at all. The other two prosecutions conducting the case, the state solicitors and the political party Vox, are of little importance with respect to the verdict. And the defences, not wanting to risk it all, perhaps fell short in some respects. However, it seems as if nothing that they could have done, would have had any effect on a trial that has stayed on its very direct path for all this time.
On Tuesday, though, the final stages begin. At 9:30am, the defences will begin delivering their final summing up. And then each of the defendants will have the opportunity to have their final words. The lawyers have an hour to defend each of their clients. Because some work with more than one defendant, they will have added time. But they will also give some of their minutes to their colleagues. For example, Andreu van den Eynde will give Xavier Melero a quarter of an hour. In total, the defence has 12 hours to present all its final conclusions. The court has then allowed 10 minutes for each of the defendants to present their last words, so that very last phase of the trial will last for just two hours in total.
Tuesday and Wednesday will thus be two intense days. Perfectly calculated, as well, with recesses to be taken by the court implacably at their appointed times, as indeed has been the tenor throughout the trial.
At the close of Wednesday's session, the trial will be sent for judgement. The verdict will not be returned until the autumn. And there is nothing to make anyone believe that the sentences that have been demanded will be reduced. Presiding judge Manuel Marchena and the rest of the Supreme Court's Second Chamber will retire to evaluate everything they have seen and heard during these four months.
During 16 weeks of hearings, a four-part orchestrated public prosecution has been presented. The quartet of prosecutors, widely criticized for their lack of preparation for the trial, took a blustering approach last week and spoke for the first time of the events on trial as a "coup d'état". They railed against the defendants for "trying to liquidate the Constitution" in Catalonia, and for causing a confrontation setting "thousands of citizens against the agents of public law and order," a situation that, according to the prosecutor, they not only allowed "before they aborted their unilateral path", but also actively promoted.
The question of violence has been under the spotlight throughout the trial. Was there violence or not? And who was responsible for what there was? Who motivated it? Did it meet the criteria for the offence of rebellion? Violence has frequently been a cause of some discrepancy between the two main prosecutions, the public prosecutors and the state solicitors. In fact, the issue of violence is the main element that differentiates the crime of rebellion from that of sedition, the principal offences in the case made respectively by public prosecutors and state solicitors.
On the one hand, the prosecutors regard it as clear that in the autumn of 2017 there was "sufficient" violence for the "objectives" of the defendants - violence which, it is claimed, they accepted and encouraged - and that "without physical violence it would not have been possible to proceed along the necessary path" on their roadmap. O the other, the state solicitors consider that the violence was not "one of the structural elements of the plan" nor was it "adequate, sufficient or proportionate" to achieve their ends.
The public prosecutors accuse nine of the defendants of rebellion, calling for sentences of between 16 and 25 years in prison; the state solicitors define the key offence as sedition and call for sentences of between 8 and 12 years.
Junqueras vs. Puigdemont
The court was unable to judge Carles Puigdemont. But you don't always need to hold all the cards to win the hand. And the public prosecutors defined Oriol Junqueras as "the driver of the rebellion."
Junqueras was impassive as he listened, as he has been throughout the trial, sitting in his corner as if it wasn't about him. Prosecutor Javier Zaragoza harshly accused him of being the "driver of the rebellion" and of exercising the "leadership" of the process, this latter description being one that the Republican Left leader would probably not shy from. He had been "pushing for a long time to make this happen," said the prosecutor.
In the public prosecutors' narrative, Junqueras was involved in everything and they attributed key decisions in the independence process to him, especially at the late September meeting when the Catalan government disregarded the warnings of the Mossos police on the risk of violence on referendum day. Then, the prosecutor asserted with bluster and severity that the Catalan vice president's "monologue" in his opening statement to the court had been an "unprecedented exercise in cynicism."
The Catalan government's cortijo
The public prosecutors also dedicated time to condemning the "immense waste" and "plundering" of public funds carried out by Carles Puigdemont's government, defining them as a "criminal organization" that converted the institution of government into its own cortijo, its own private estate.
About three million euros, according to the prosecutors, came out of the public coffers in Catalonia to finance the independence process and they attributed the responsibility for this to the nine cabinet ministers who are defendants in the trial, along with others who are in exile. All of them signed an agreement jointly assuming the expenses of the referendum, declared illegal.
But there is no evidence that payments of this sum were made. The witnesses called with regard to the misuse of funds question, those responsible for supply firms and industry professionals, gave the best impressions of anyone appearing in the trial. Calm, natural explanations, all of them aligned with the same thesis and approach, which even led to smiles in the courtroom more than once, as well as several expression of rage and desperation.
Supreme Court movies, with no popcorn
Two weeks before the close of the trial, after three and a half months of court sessions and 500 witness declarations, the large number of videos presented as evidence were finally viewed by the court. With the prosecutions selecting the files they wanted, one by one, and with quite a few stumbles from the public prosecutors when it was their turn, the Supreme Court became a movie theatre watching images thta ranged from derisive comments from protesters, the judicial searches of 20th September 2017 and the scenes in schools used as polling places on the 1st October.
It can all be summed up in just two images: that of Jordi Cuixart, who kept a low profile throughout the trial, standing on a Civil Guard vehicle and on a stage outside the Catalonia High Court, exhorting the crowd to continue to struggle against the Spanish state. And secondly, the referendum day images of citizens who passively obstructed the police from entering schools and impeded their searches, leading to violent episodes, which were, said the public prosecutors, key to the rebellion.
But the video screening was far from seamless. Things went wrong. A sequence from a TV chat show popped up among the prosecutors' video evidence and was rapidly removed after the judge hollered. Videos that were repeated not just once but up to three times, as the prosecutors had failed to screen their material well. And others of events that took place after the 27th October 2017 - and were therefore outside the timeframe of the events of the trial.
It was another chapter in a trial which the court made efforts to be portrayed as rigorous and covered by all the guarantees of the law, but which, at some moments, lapsed into the ridiculous. Another instance being the case of the same witness being called twice, as lawyer Jordi Pina spotted in time before the court's embarrassment was complete.
Òmnium Cultural developed a new way to monitor a trial. The pro-independence civil group, with its president Jordi Cuixart in prison, employed a defence strategy led by Marina Roig, accompanied by Benet Salellas and Àlex Solà, which won respect from judge Marchena himself, often quite unpleasant with some of the lawyers.
But, in addition, Òmnium did an excellent job of disseminating key aspects of the trial that affected Cuixart. Beyond the conversations with lawyers that took place in the corridors, the defences, political parties and civil entities involved all attempted to obtain press coverage and to affect public opinion. The JxCat and ERC parties did this with spokespeople giving interviews. Òmnium carried out close continuous monitoring of the trial, comparing the discussion of events in court at a given moment with audiovisual material which could not be shown during the session, but which was then immediately circulated to the media. As well, there were other post-edited videos. An exemplary and up-to-date response to what is already considered the trial of the century.
The trial in the corridors
Another side of the trial was the experience in the backrooms, in the corridors. The volume of public attending the trial gradually decreased over the four month period, with a resurgence of public interest over Easter and during the final days with the defence witnesses, the showing of the images and the final statements.
The prisoners were able to receive family members and friends during the lunch break, which almost always lasted two hours. There were defendants [not those imprisoned] who missed a high speed train and arrived late for a session. Every week on Thursdays, at the end of the session, lawyers and journalists hurried off to catch the 8 o'clock AVE train to Barcelona. The different halls of the Supreme Court full of travellers' suitcases. Waiters in the restaurants near the court who knew the order of witness appearances in advance. Police officers on door duty who let people in without showing their accreditation, and others who didn't let anyone get by without having everything in order.
Colds, allergies, fevers; cramps and muscular ailments across four months, among court officials, lawyers and journalists from Madrid and Catalonia. And the renal colic which forced lawyer Andreu Van den Eynde to take walks along the corridors.
Four months of trial that come to a close this week, and then the wait for a sentence, to be delivered in autumn. And with the expectation that it will be long and exemplary.