For the rebellion charges brought by the public prosecutor against Catalan independence leaders to stick, it must be proved that violence was part of the 2017 bid to split from Spain, characterised by the public prosecutor as “an act against the constitutional order.” The defendants on trial in the Supreme Court have consistently denied any accusations of violence and, on Tuesday, the solicitor general representing the Spanish government agreed that “the use of violence was not central to the independence bid.”
With the prosecution taking turns giving their closing arguments on day 50 of the trial, the solicitor general justified her decision to charge the defendants with sedition rather than rebellion by making a distinction between the use of violence and “the use of force.” Referring to “active and passive resistance” aimed at “preventing” police from carrying out court orders to stop the unilateral independence referendum on October 1, the solicitor general insisted that “violence and the use of force can’t be put on the same level.”
“For it to be rebellion, violence or the threat of its use had to have been organized and planned as a central tool for reaching the desired aims,” said the government’s attorney in rejecting the use of violence as a “structural element” in the independence bid. However, the attorney did implicate three main actors in the bid: the Catalan parliament, the government, and civil society leaders, and she accused activist leaders Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart of “encouraging the masses” to break the law.
After the solicitor, far-right Vox party lawyers, acting as private prosecutors, sided with the public prosecutor and requested rebellion charges. Yet the maximum sentence they ask for is 74 years, with a joint figure of almost 700 years behind bars. In his final report, party secretary and Vox’s head lawyer, Javier Ortega Smith, expressed pride that it was his party that lodged the first complaint that led to the investigation and subsequent trial of the Catalan leaders, who he says are not in court “by accident.”
The report calls for a “dissuasive” sentence for the defendants, so that “no one else dares to carry out a coup against the constitutional order,” and Ortega praised the “heroism” of the Guardia Civil and Spanish police for their investigations into the independence bid. According to the report, the Catalan independence leaders carried out “a sophisticated and innovative coup attempt” and that the victors of the legal process should be “justice, the rule of law, democracy and national sovereignty.”