CATALAN TRIAL: Ex-PM Mariano Rajoy and other former officials testify in Madrid

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SPAIN’S former Prime Minister has said ex-Catalan Generalitat officials on trial over the 2017 independence referendum and declaration knew he would not allow a vote to “liquidate” Spain.

Mariano Rajoy, who was in office when the referendum was held in October 2017, said he was obliged to defend Spanish unity under the country’s Constitution. He was speaking as a witness in the ongoing trial of 12 defendants at the Supreme Court.

Rajoy, who activated Article 155 after the Catalan Generalitat declared independence following the 2017 vote, said he and other officials had acted with prudence and caution. Article 155 was the constitutional mechanism used to suspend Cataluña’s regional authority and impose direct rule from Madrid after the independence declaration.

“We made efforts to get support from everyone. It is the Spanish who should decide what Spain is,” Rajoy told the court.

Defence lawyers asked Rajoy how he felt about the alleged use of violence by both Madrid and the Generalitat during the independence push.

Several of those on trial have been charged with rebellion. Prosecutors will have to prove thos defendants used violent means in their attempt to gain independence while defence lawyers claim it was Madrid and Spanish police forces that used force on protesters and voters.

Rajoy said he did not recall any violence and added he did not have any data to hand on the issue.

“I never made decisions about police operations, those were taken by officers in charge of them,” Rajoy said.

The trial also featured a testimony from former Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria. The former official was put in charge of Cataluña after its regional autonomy was suspended.

Saenz de Santamaria said police had acted sensibly during clashes between themselves and pro-independence supporters. She added she had never made any decisions about the specifics of police operations.

Juan Ignacio Zoido, the Spanish Interior Minister at the time of the independence push, also said he had not given specific orders to police.

Colonel Diego Perez de los Cobos, Zoido’s deputy at the time and a senior police officer, is due to testify next week.

Iñigo Urkullu, head of the Basque Country’s regional government and also a witness, said he had acted as a go-between for Madrid and Catalan officials in the run up to the referendum.

Urkullu said he had tried to establish a dialogue and agreements between Rajoy and former Generalitat president Carles Puigdemont.

He said both had been willing to listen and respond but that Puigdemont had eventually caved to pressure from other pro-independence figures in deciding

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Joe Gerrard

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