07.02.2017 - 16:57
The role of the Catalan Ministry for Education was the focus of the second day of the trial over the 9-N symbolic vote on independence in 2014. In particular, the magistrates aim to find out whether high school directors were pressed by the public bodies to cede the centres and turn them into polling stations on the non-binding consultation day. According to former director of Barcelona’s Department for Education, Montserrat Llobet, no high school directors were pressed to give the centres’ keys for the 9-N, but ‘the convenience of doing so was pointed out’ during a meeting, she nuanced. Former Catalan President, Artur Mas, former Catalan Vice-president, Joana Ortega and former Catalan Minster for Education, Irene Rigau, are accused of disobedience and breach of trust for allegedly ignoring the Spanish Constitutional Court (TC) ban over the 9-N symbolic vote and have also testified this Tuesday before Barcelona’s High Court.
The Public Prosecutor has started to interrogate the witnesses over the 9-N trial. They are mainly inspectors of the Education Department, as well as former public servants of this body and several directors who ceded the educative centres as polling station on the day of the symbolic vote. They are all expected to confirm Mas, Ortega and Rigau’s defence, which holds that that the three accused didn’t disobey any court ruling and that the vote passed into volunteers’ hands five days before the 9-N.
Former director of Barcelona’s Department for Education, Montserrat Llobet, assured that no high school directors were pressed to give the centres’ keys for the 9-N but ‘the convenience of doing so was pointed out’ during a meeting, she nuanced.
One of the high school directors also denied ‘feeling pressured at all’. ‘This would have been the case if we were required to give the keys and that wasn’t the case’, she explained. She also pointed that she lent the keys to a volunteer and that she had ‘piece of mind’.
An inspector of the Education Department admitted that during a meeting he was advised to ‘abstain’ from discussing the organisation of the symbolic vote during the trial since it was a competence of the director of Barcelona’s Department for Education at that time, Montserrat Llobet. Nevertheless, the inspector considered ceding the education centres for the 9-N ‘a social use’ and therefore not illegal.
Mas attributes to himself the political responsibility for the 9-N
‘The political initiative of the 9-N was mine and that of the Government which I presided over at that time’, stated Mas during his first testimony on Monday. The former Catalan President insisted that the non-binding referendum ‘was not a personal whim or a last-minute idea’ but ‘the consequence of wide parliamentary agreements and explicit and reiterated mandates of the Chamber’. Moreover, he emphasised that the 9-N “was unstoppable” since it was in the hands of volunteers rather than under the Government’s control. Mas insisted that the 9-N took place ‘after democratic elections which nobody refuted nor questioned’. Mas refused to answer the Public Prosecutor’s questions after his testimony.
‘A political trial’
More than 2.3 million people participated in the 9-N symbolic vote on independence. An initiative which was regarded as a popular consultation without any binding component. Thus, many citizens and political representatives who openly expressed in favour of Catalonia’s right to decide its political future have expressed their outrage over the trial. Mas himself considers it ‘a political trial with little foundation in law’ and many have described it as an attack on democracy. Mas, Ortega and Rigau could be banned from public office for 10 years since the Public Prosecutor claims they ‘were fully aware’ that by preparing the non-binding consultation ‘they were breaking the mandatory rulings of the Spanish Constitutional Court’.
The trial will continue throughout the week.