Ex-Catalan police chief goes on trial for rebellion

San Fernando de Henares: The former police chief of Catalonia went on trial on Monday over his role in the region’s failed 2017 independence bid in a move that risks fanning tensions with Catalan separatists.
Josep Lluis Trapero, former head of the Mossos d’Esquadra regional police force, is in the dock on charges of rebellion with prosecutors seeking an 11-year jail sentence.
During the October 1 independence referendum, which was banned by Madrid, prosecutors say the Mossos demonstrated “total passivity” under Trapero’s watch while Spain’s national police led a violent crackdown, using batons and firing rubber bullets in a bid to stop voters.
The trial of the career police officer comes three months after Spain’s Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan separatist leaders to long prison terms, prompting weeks of protests which sometimes turned violent across the wealthy northeastern region.
It got underway just before 10:30 am at a court in an industrial zone in San Fernando de Henares on the outskirts of Madrid.
Another senior police officer and a former official with the Catalan interior ministry are on trial alongside Trapero facing charges of rebellion while a fourth person, a Mossos officer, faces the lesser charge of sedition.
The trial, which is expected to run until March 19, will focus on the Mossos’ role in enforcing a court ban on the referendum, which was followed several weeks later by a short-lived declaration of independence.
Several of the jailed Catalan leaders have been called to testify.
In a tweet, the head of Catalonia’s separatist regional government, Quim Torra, expressed “all his support” for the accused and predicted that “justice will eventually impose itself over revenge”. In a precedent which may help Trapero, the Supreme Court in October dismissed the charge of rebellion against the nine separatist leaders, finding them guilty of sedition, which carries a shorter prison term.
By definition, rebellion is “rising up in a violent and public manner” to, among other things, “declare independence for part of the (Spanish) territory”.
Sedition, however, is “rising up publicly and in turbulent fashion” to “prevent by force or in an illegal way” the law from being applied, or the application of an administrative or legal decision.
Trapero appeared at the separatists’ trial as a witness, defending his performance as police chief and saying the Mossos “had no intention of facilitating the referendum”.
He also said his officers would have been ready to arrest then Catalan president Carles Puigdemont had they been asked. Puigdemont fled Spain to avoid prosecution.
Shortly after the Catalan parliament issued a short-lived declaration of independence, Madrid sacked Trapero, dismissed the regional government and temporarily took over Catalonia’s regional affairs.
His dismissal came just two months after he was praised for capturing those behind a summer van attack that killed 14 people in Barcelona. — AFP