A German former regional MP who was in Catalonia on October 1, 2017 and who witnessed the independence referendum said he was “impressed” by the calm attitude of people as Spanish police forcibly entered polling stations to prevent the vote.

Speaking as a witness in the trial of Catalan independence leaders, Bernhard von Grünberg, who had been a regional MP for the Social Democratic Party, described the “determined discipline” of people who turned out to vote in the referendum that was declared illegal by Spanish courts.

“Despite threats” said Von Grünberg, who was called as a witness at the request of indicted Òmnium Cultural leader Jordi Cuixart, “people went to vote, waited for many hours, were subject to intimidation, and didn’t resort to violence.”

Rubber bullets

The German MP said he visited several polling stations in Barcelona and Girona on the day of the referendum, and described how Spanish police officers “broke into polling stations, breaking doors, and clearing people out.” Von Grünberg also described seeing some people “injured by rubber bullets, who then had to be taken to hospital but, the German MP told the court, “I didn’t perceive any violent attitude” and said he did not see any Spanish police officer injured.

The German MP denied that he acted as an international observer on referendum day: “My motivation was to visit Catalonia and talk with all parties. By no means was my priority acting as an observer or validating the vote” he told the court. Von Grünberg also denied representing any political organisations in Germany that might be in favor of Catalonia’s independence, and he even denied that he himself was in favor of such a thing.

With the Catalan political leaders on trial charged with the misuse of public funds, Von Grünberg said: “I paid all travel expenses myself. That’s what I normally do when I travel for my work in the United Nations, because I want to remain independent.”