Artur Mas, president of the Catalan government, former vice president Joana Ortega, and minister Irene Rigau have been indicted by the Superior Court of Catalonia as part of its probe into the symbolic vote on independence from Spain held in Catalonia on 9 November, 2014.
The three politicians have been charged with four counts of gross disobedience, prevarication, embezzlement of public funds, and usurpation of functions for their role in the organizing of the participatory process to decide the political future of Catalonia. The charges brought against Mas, Ortega, and Rigau come two days after parliamentary elections in Catalonia handed a victory to the separatist movement.
The court has set the date for Mas’s testimony for 15 October, a day that marks the 75th anniversary of the execution by firing squad of Catalan president Lluis Companys, during the Spanish Civil War. Rigau’s and Ortega’s testimony will be two days earlier, on October 13. Several witnesses will also be called to the stand.
Before the 9-N vote, the right-wing organization Manos Limpias (Clean Hands), the political party Unión Progreso y Democracia (Unity, Progress, and Democracy), and other groups, filed a lawsuit against Mas, Ortega, and Rigau. Prosecutors brought charges against them a few days later. The Superior Court of Catalonia consolidated the charges into one case.
Several weeks ago, defence attorneys for Mas, Ortega, and Rigau requested that witness testimonies be postponed until after their clients’ testimony had been heard, and for this to be after the elections in order to avoid interfering with the electoral process.
Irene Rigau and Joana Ortega will testify on October 13, at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., respectively. Mas will testify two days later, on the 15th, at 10 a.m.
The former principal of a secondary school in l’Hospitalet de Llobregat who refused to allow school property to be used as a polling station for the 9-N informal vote will also be called as a witness on 19 October; first scheduled for July, her testimony was postponed to 21 September, and, amid the election campaign, again postponed.
Four other witnesses will also be testifying on 19 October: the administrator of the audiovisual company Focus, which set up the International Press Centre; the director of CIRE, a public company funded by the Catalan government, which manufactured and distributed ballots, envelopes and ballot boxes; an advisor on public opinion with the Catalan government’s Department of Governance, who administered and maintained the website www.participa2014.cat; and a computer technician ‘tasked with coordinating or managing the services provided by the Centre for Telecommunications and Information Technology’ of the Catalan government.
As for the two witnesses requested by Manos Limpias—which is the private prosecutor—the Superior Court of Catalonia has asked the prosecutor’s office and the defence attorneys to determine their relevancy to the case and whether they should testify. The prospective witnesses are the Catalan government’s secretary general for governance, Francesc Esteve, and the deputy director general of the office of Economic Management, Recruitment and Heritage, Montserrat Aparicio. Likewise, the court has also requested that prosecutors and defence attorneys weigh in on whether to heed the request by the far-right organization for the Civil Guard to search government offices to seize documents on the participatory process.