Catalan president Quim Torra today goes on trial in a Barcelona courtroom. It is the first time ever that an active, sitting president of Catalonia has been tried. Appearing before the Catalan High Court, Torra faces a charge of disobedience for not having removed a banner from the façade of the Catalan government palace in the lead-up to the elections of April 28th this year. The banner read "Free political prisoners and exiles" in both English and Catalan, and also featured a graphic of a yellow ribbon.
The Spanish pubic prosecutor has asked for the president to be banned from holding public office for 20 months and to be fined 30,000 euros.
On March 11th, Spain's central Electoral Commission gave a 48-hour deadline to Torra to remove banners and yellow ribbons from Catalan government-administered buildings, arguing that they violated the necessary institutional neutrality during an electoral period. The president ignored the Commission's order and presented it with a letter explaining why. A week later, the Commission again demanded the removal of all symbols linked to Catalan independence, the political prisoners and exiles, and warned the president of possible criminal liability. Finally, before the Commission sent an order to the Catalan police, the Mossos, to proceed to the withdrawal of the symbols, Torra replaced the offending banner on the Generalitat palace with a similar one on which the yellow ribbon was replaced by a white version of the same symbol, with a red slash across it.
The trial begins at 9am at the courts in Barcelona's Passeig de Lluís Companys. At 8am there will be a rally of support with the presence of the entire Catalan Government, pro-independence groups the ANC, Òmnium, municipal mayors, former president Artur Mas and representatives of the pro-independence parties.
How will the trial proceed?
The trial will begin with prior questions, from both defence and prosecutions - with the far-right political party Vox once again having taken up the option to present its own private prosecution. The defendant, Quim Torra, will then make his declaration. In a previous hearing, president Torra admitted the crime of disobedience, of which he is accused: "Yes, I disobeyed because I follow a higher mandate, from the citizenry, for the defence of human rights." Following Torra's declaration, hearing of witnesses will begin.
Several Spanish police officers summonsed to appear will take the witness stand, along with former Mossos d'Esquadra head Miquel Esquius. In the afternoon, witnesses will include Ciudadanos party spokesperson Carlos Carrizosa; the delegate of the Spanish government in Catalonia, Teresa Cunillera; JxCat politician Elsa Artadi, who at that time was Catalan government minister and spokesperson; the Catalan ombudsman, Rafel Ribó; and the Catalan interior minister, Miquel Buch.
The trial will end with the final statements by the prosecutions and defence, and the option of a final statement by Quim Torra.