On a highly significant Day 52 of the Catalan trial, which is expected to be the last, the 12 imprisoned Catalan politicians and activists – in the dock on charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds – are making their closing remarks before Spain’s Supreme Court.
In the final stage of proceedings, the defendants – among the highest-profile figures in the independence movement – are using their turn to speak after hearing months of witness statements and expert evidence to categorically deny allegations by the three prosecutors.
The defense lawyers having concluded their summing up earlier on Wednesday, the court will rise for several months of deliberation over the verdict and potential sentences, expected to be announced after the summer break, as soon as the defendants finish their addresses.
Each of them have argued that events during and surrounding the independence referendum held on October 1, 2017 were peaceful, and that the vote itself was a democratic exercise, while some opponents inside and outside the courtroom have presented it as a “coup d’état.”
Here is what they had to say in their final words before Spain’s most senior magistrates:
The former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras, the most senior politician in the dock given the self-imposed exile of President Carles Puigdemont, was the first of several to emphasize the importance of political dialogue rather than legal judgments for resolving the crisis.
“It’s time for the Catalan question to return to the political sphere of dialogue and negotiation, which it should never have left,” he concluded.
Speaking as “a father and a teacher”, he said he has been devoted to “democracy, coexistence and the common good” and will continue to be.
The former foreign affairs minister adopted a global perspective, calling on “all democrats” to create a society “where there are no political trials.”
“Today it is us, tomorrow it could be anyone,” he warned, before attacking the prosecution for “bias” and “distortion” of reality during the trial.
He told the court that he had always stood up for the right to non-violent self-determination, rather than the alleged violence that is being used to justify the accusations of rebellion.
The ousted interior minister described the trial as a “punishment for the political challenge that the referendum posed” and the result of “political failure”, restating his firm belief that the Catalan question can “only ever be resolved through dialogue.”
He emphasized that the ballot “had the support of the majority in parliament and in society” and said that, as the minister responsible for maintaining public order, he “may have made mistakes but never worked to compromise the safety of citizens.”
The former president’s office minister and government spokesperson employed a revolutionary metaphor to describe the possible jail sentence hanging over the defendants.
“Decapitating us will not decapitate the independence movement or the desire for independence and self-determination in Catalonia,” he said.
The former territory and sustainability minister took the opportunity to insist that Catalan independence was, in his view, inevitable.
He said that Catalonia would one day become a republic “where it would be impossible for anyone to be put in prison simply for standing up for what they believe in.”
“Self-determination is simple and transcendental. There will always be more people following us. There are not enough prisons to lock up our desire for freedom,” he added.
The activist turned politician chose to denounce the “abuse of preventative imprisonment” that he believes has “unfairly” resulted in him already spending over a year behind bars.
“This is an enormous injustice, not only for me and for the other pro-independence prisoners but in general around Spain,” he explained.
He finished with an appeal for political sensitivity from the magistrates, urging the court to reach a verdict “that does not aggravate the crisis.”
The parliament speaker at the time of the referendum and declaration of independence accused the prosecutors of judging her on the basis of her “political career and not the facts.”
She contrasted her charge of rebellion with those of her deputies, who are standing trial in Catalonia for disobedience, saying that she always acted on the same terms as them.
The trade unionist and former work, social affairs and families minister stressed that “generations to come will depend on this verdict, which has the potential to provide a solution.”
She said that “the will of 80% of the people [to hold a referendum] could not be ignored” and that true disobedience would have been failing to comply with that manifesto promise.
The president of pro-independence association Òmnium Cultural defended the right to protest for self-determination, whatever the outcome of the trial.
“If police violence could not stop thousands of people from voting in the referendum, does anyone believe that a sentence will cause Catalans to stop fighting for their rights?”
The former business minister urged magistrates to avoid making the mistake of “anachronism or presentism” by analyzing the 2017 independence drive according to its consequences.
She emphasized that the government had been negotiating a possible legal alternative to the independence declaration “until the last minute.”