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The narrative of Spain's Civil Guard, which claims that there was a “concert of actors” to reach the point where Catalonia would rupture with Spain, showed its failings on 16th April, when former Catalan National Assembly (ANC) president and Catalan deputy, Jordi Sànchez, appeared together with fellow accused Jordi Cuixart and Oriol Junqueras to communicate to them that their trial for the crime of rebellion would proceed. Before the investigating judge Pablo Llarena, the ANC leader dismantled the arguments of the Spanish police about a conspiracy. The supposed coordination meetings were, in reality, the presentation of t-shirts for the mass rally on Catalonia's national day, the Diada.

The audio recordings of the case summary, to which El Nacional has had complete access, include Sànchez's declaration from that day, when he rejected the reports presented by the Civil Guard. The Spanish police force based its story about a conspiracy on certain meetings with Catalan president Carles Puigdemont that appear in emails. The reality was something very different, responded Sànchez, who recalled that those meetings took place in the context of the massive demonstration held on the Diada.

"This was the case of the meeting with the Catalan president, but not only with that one - also for the meetings with the mayors of Barcelona, Lleida, Tarragona, and Girona", said Jordi Sànchez, who explained that meetings were always held with the authorities to request their collaboration with the Diada march, to invite them to take part and to present them with the Diada t-shirt. Of the mayors mentioned, the only one who is pro-independence is the mayor of Girona, Marta Madrenas.

The former president of the ANC went on to complain to judge Llarena that this supposed "collaboration" had been taken for granted by the judge himself. "What is behind these emails is, on two occasions, the presentation of a t-shirt and the invitation to the Catalan president to take part on 11th September, the Diada, as also occurred with other presidents and mayors," he said. And he added ironically that by "following the media constantly", they might have been able to confirm the information.

"I don't know why the news that we met with Mrs Colau, with the mayor of Lleida, with the mayor of Tarragona, did not appear", wondered Sànchez . "I suppose because it did not fit the Civil Guard's story", he offered. 

In a similar line, Sànchez also complained that the Civil Guard used the meeting of the summit for the referendum, held on 23rd December 2016, "to insinuate my capacity of influence" with president Puigdemont. "It turns out that the meeting mentioned was an event held in Parliament with 80 institutions", recalled Sànchez. "I spoke for 30 seconds to give support to the creation of a committee to work with the Spanish government to obtain a referendum to exercise the right to vote in an agreed and legal referendum", he added.

"But as this is not explained and there is only the email, it seems that that magnificent and fantastic narrative places me once again as a conspiratorial element together with president Puigdemont and other people", he said.

"Catalonia is not North Korea"

In his declaration, Jordi Sànchez also dismantled the theory under which the independence leaders, as well as the ANC, were supposed to have "abducted” and “manipulated” millions of people so that they embraced the cause. “This is like shooting the messenger, believing that by doing so the problem or the political ideology is finished”, he answered. “Whoever wrote this, in the Civil Guard reports, is confusing causes with consequences”, he argued.

As well, the pro-independence leader said that it was not the ANC “that makes the independence movement grow”, but rather it is "the expression of a state of opinion”. And he added: “Believing that a few people have the capacity to abduct a majority is to fail to accept the existence of a problem, to attempt to hide it or simply to ignore how democracies work today”.

“Catalonia is not North Korea. And I believe that any person who gives a little attention to an analysis of Catalan reality can ascertain this”, he concluded.

“Why was it an offence after 1st October when it wasn't before?”

At one point in his testimony, Jordi Sànchez recalled that, before 1st October, there was no court order nor warning to him, nor had he been summonsed by a judge to appear, even though the judge of Barcelona's court number 13 had already opened a case. “Curiously, the talks that [ex-judge] Santi Vidal gave were organized by a local section of ANC”, he said. “The judge of court 13 would have had a great opportunity to call me or to impose any order, but that never occurred”, he added.

“During the month of September we carried out a large-scale public campaign with large events to get people to vote on 1st October. Neither I nor the ANC group ever had any court order imposed by court number 13, nor by the tax ministry”, he continued. “This inaction could have placed me in a situation of being defenceless before the law now that I am here today“, he suggested, also noting that for six months he had been separated from his family.

In the face of all this, the former ANC leader asked: “Why was it that these actions, which until 1st October nobody had considered to be offences, became - after 1st October - offences for which I was put into prison along with Jordi Cuixart”. He added: “It is a question that I have wondered about many times and to which I have not found an answer”.

To Judge Llarena: "Why did the state use violence? Did it feel weak?"

At one point in the testimony, judge Pablo Llarena stopped passively listening and actively intervened. When Sànchez compared the 1st October 2017 referendum with the unofficial poll held on 9th November 2014, the judge asked him about the referendum law passed by the Catalan parliament, which established that, in the event of a victory for "yes", the result would be made effective.

The intervention of the judge led to a dialogue with the ex-ANC leader. "I suppose that the Supreme Court has confidence in the legal mechanisms of the state, and when a law has been suspended, it can go nowhere”, Sànchez replied, who then asked a question himself: “Where could that law have gone, in Your Honour's opinion?" Llarena limited himself to replying that “the opinion that matters is the defendant's”.

Given this response, Sànchez developed his argument: “The mechanism of the law is to believe that the institutions of a democratic state and of the law have sufficient legitimacy to be imparted without the need for the use of the force nor violence”. And he asked: “Why did the state use violence on 1st October? Perhaps because it felt weak in Catalonia? Did it not feel legitimate?" And he concluded: "The narrative that has been built around the 1st October after the fact does not respond to the reality, at all".

Llarena's partiality 

After the questions from his defence lawyer –the only ones he responded to -- Jordi Sànchez raised the question of judge Llarena's impartiality as an investigating judge, mentioning the way he had used the first person plural "we" in some of his rulings, which, according to Sànchez, “mean that Your Honour is situated on the side of the victim”.

The JxCat deputy claimed that Llarena had undergone an “evolution”. “In the first ruling, there was hope for a release because of a situation of tension that was slowly diminishing” and the ruling even “appraised positively” if Sànchez were to not take part in an electoral list. But afterwards, according to Sànchez, the judge changed. “I do not know if it was because of the results of the Catalan elections on 21st December last year which were not as expected, but in the following court rulings those elements changed significantly in a narrative in which the central element was ideology”, he criticized.

“I am pro-independence, and I will probably continue to be until I die”, offered Sànchez. And he added: “But this is not a crime. However, it is put to me that, as I have this ideology, I am susceptible of acting in a given way”. He denounced that the investigation was a "collective case" against supporters of Catalan independence.