The Spanish Criminal Code says what it says, and the events of autumn 2017 do not match either the crime of rebellion or the crime of sedition. Nor do the facts match the crime of misuse of public funds. Jordi Pina, lawyer to three of the 12 defendants - Jordi Sànchez, Jordi Turull and Josep Rull - presented an argument like a class in criminal law this Tuesday at the Supreme Court. In the presentation of his closing arguments, he rebuffed the prosecution narratives, which had gone as far as to speak of a coup d'état by the independence movement. Pina provided a detailed analysis of each of the alleged offences for which his clients could be condemned to long prison sentences.
The lawyer of Sànchez, Turull and Rull began by refuting certain key words used by prosecutor Javier Zaragoza: "People need to know that there is no crime of commiting a coup d'etat defined in Spanish criminal law in the 21st century". Zaragoza had also suggested that the events of 2017 were a "different rebellion." As a criminal lawyer, responded Pina, he had never encountered "different homicides". "The crimes are what they are. The Criminal Code is what it is, and rebellion is what it is. Our function here is to analyze whether these definitions of crime took place," he stated.
Regarding rebellion, Jordi Pina began with the very essence of the criminal definition: "If there is no public uprising, then it goes no further". And he added: "What happened in Catalonia were not public uprisings. They were protests, they were demonstrations". At this point, he made a solid defence of the right to protest: "Yes, the actions of judges were being questioned. We all have the right to protest against your resolutions. It is healthy criticism". He recalled that, unfortunately, there are also judges who act arbitrarily.
The lawyer also denied the existence of violence, arguing that this crime requires "armed force and fire." In contrast, "pots and pans banging, or spitting" are hardly significant enough for a rebellion. "Violence occurred in those places where some members of the state security forces were not up to the task before them," he rebuffed.
Jordi Pina then responded to the claim made by the public prosecutors last week that since the Catalan goverment already "held most of the power" in Catalonia, the level of violence envisaged in the law was not necessary. He recalled that government delegations, major infrastructure like ports and airports, and in particular the armed forces, are not in the hands of the Catalan authorities, but of the central government. Similarly, he asked rhetorically, where were the different categories of rebels mentioned in the definition of the crime: the promoters, their subordinates and the participants? Pina asserted that none of the accused were able to "pull the strings" to manipulate the more than two million people who voted in the referendum on 1st October 2017.
With regard to sedition, and in rebuttal of the view expressed by the public prosecutors, the lawyer argued that the definition also implies a violence which did not take place. Thus, he said, the same arguments as used on the rebellion charges were also applicable to sedition. "It's rebellion on a small scale, the basic structure would be the same," he said. He noted that the evidence shows the defendants did not call on the public to prevent judicial actions such as the searches that took place on 20th September, 2017.
On the misuse of public funds charges, Jordi Pina recalled that the trial had seen no proof of any spending on the referendum by the Catalan administration after September 6th, 2017, the date of the controversial parliamentary session to pass the laws for the referendum and for legal disconnection. Pina went through several elements from the prosecution to dismantle them. He also emphasized that it is completely unsustainable in legal terms for "all members of the government to be made jointly responsible, instead of charging each one with their department's expenses."
Turull, more days in jail than he was in office
After his initial exposition, lawyer Pina used the second part of his intervention to speak specifically about each of his three clients. He began with Jordi Turull, who at the time of the referendum was the minister spokesperson - a position he had held for just over three and a half months, already just a fraction of the time he has spent in prison, as Pina pointed out. The prosecution's case against Turull is based largely on the key documents: the Moleskine notebook listing many government meetings, those present and giving notes on matters discussed; the Enfocats PowerPoint document, the public Road Map to independence produced by Junts per Sí, and the White Paper on independence. The prosecution argument is that these documents prove a conspiracy, linking the three essential groups required for the 'rebellion' - namely, the Catalan government, civil society and parliament. This, according to Pina, "is completely outrageous. They didn't know, and they didn't have any evidence, so they made a titanic effort to find elements tying people in."
Pina went through each of the documents, and was particularly scathing on the Moleskine, belonging to government official Josep Maria Jové, which he said merely proved that people in the government met with each other, as you would expect.
Rull, "16 years for a tweet?"
Regarding Josep Rull, the lawyer stated ironically that "what has been done with him is more maritime law than criminal law", referring to his status as territorial minister, whose ministry managed the berthing of the Spanish police ships sent to Catalonia in September 2017. Pina specifically criticized a tweet saying that his ministry had not let the so-called Piolín ship be docked, a message which the lawyer attributed to an act of arrogance. "So, in the 21st century, the prosecutors demand 16 years' jail for a tweet claiming that he didn't allow a ship to berth? It would make me laugh if it was not so serious," he exclaimed. As the lawyer reiterated, the evidence was that the ship was unable to enter the port due to technical problems.
There was also an interview which Rull gave to El Nacional. Pina denounced "the unethical action" of the police officers who assembled the evidence. "They edited parts of different interview answers, to give a meaning which had nothing to do with what was actually said," he criticized.
Sànchez and the "damned blockheads"
In four months the Jordis - Cuixart and Sànchez - will have been imprisoned for two years. This afternoon Jordi Pina vehemently defended their innocence, centred on his own client Jordi Sànchez, former president of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) civil group. His words to the court were clear: "The public prosecutors want to give an especially exemplary punishment to the leaders of the civil groups." He also accused the prosecution of showing malice towards Sànchez, as "the perverse and evil guru of the independence movement."
Sànchez, said Pina, was the defendant who received the most attention from the public prosecutors, and it was remarkable that they regarded him as one of the leaders of the claimed rebellion, because "if that were the case, they would also have to charge him with an offence related to the misuse of public funds." According to the defence lawyer, a year after his client had been sent to prison preventively, the prosecutors realized they had no way of linking them with the Catalan government. And it was at this point that they decided to look for a pretext, which they found in the 2016 ANC road map, where it referred to the referendum as an important element. "That was their proof for the idea that the ANC were the ringleaders," said Pina, noting, though, that at no time in the trial were any questions asked about this document which the accusation uses in its final conclusions.
Pina reminded the court that "the referendum was organized by the Catalan government, not by Mr Sànchez or the ANC." And that the pro-independence leaders today sitting in the dock had simply taken up the challenge which Catalan people had called for, after the indignation generated by the 2010 Constitutional Court ruling cutting down the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, and that indignation had continued to grow over the years and through the actions of successive Spanish governments.
Pina insisted on the pacifism of Sànchez, an attitude that had always been part of the ANC, "with the only damned exception of the blockheads that caused damage to the Civil Guard vehicles on 20th September 2017", a single episode of vandalism which, according to Pina, "damaged years of unblemished action" and which "has served as a pretext to imprison" the two civil leaders.
In his final defence submission, Pina requested the release of his clients, Jordi Sànchez, Jordi Turull and Josep Rull, until the verdict arrives.