Pro-independence activist Jordi Sànchez testified in Spain’s Supreme Court on Thursday, declaring himself a “political prisoner” and alleging that he is being “punished” for heading the civic grassroots group Catalan National Assembly (ANC). Sànchez, who is facing 17 years in prison for rebellion, told the court: “I’m convinced I’m here today because I was the president of the Catalan National Assembly” and for “exercising the right to freedom of expression.”
“This is a political trial and all accusations are false” added Sànchez, who led a protest outside the Catalan finance ministry on September 20, 2017, as Spanish police raided official buildings in an attempt to halt the referendum. Sànchez justified his actions, saying the call to “defend Catalan institutions” was shared by a range of other organizations, and he insisted “the right to protest should not be limited if it doesn’t contravene other rights.”
The September 20 protests were considered by the Spanish authorities to be “tumultuous,” and Sànchez was charged with sedition, and then rebellion, and was remanded in custody, where he has so far remained for 492 days.
Yet the former ANC head now turned MP rejected the accusations, in particular the allegations of violence, saying that “there was tension and shouting, but no violence, nor police charges, nor attacks from protesters against police officers.”
Along with fellow activist leader, Jordi Cuixart, who is also on trial, Sànchez addressed protesters from atop a Spanish police car, but insisted that damage to police cars “can’t justify” a narrative that there was an “uprising to violently damage vehicles and people.”
“There were no objects thrown which damaged any Catalan or Spanish police officer, nor the door [of the public building]. It’s false” said Sànchez, who also challenged the size of the protests: “For the first time, those accusing us say there were more protesters than do the local police,” he added.
Involvement in referendum
Asked about his involvement in organizing the referendum that followed some days later, and which was declared illegal by the Spanish courts, Sànchez denied ANC activists hid ballot boxes ahead of the vote, saying: “I don’t know where they were.”
Sànchez also defended his call for sit-ins on October 1 to keep polling stations open for the referendum: “Neither the ANC nor [fellow civic group] Òmnium, nor me, nor anyone else was told by prosecutors or courts not to do it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sànchez condemned the hardline tactics of Spanish police on the day of the referendum, calling the response a “disproportionate use of force” and pointing out that “methods like rubber bullets are illegal in Catalonia.”