A PROSECUTOR at the trial of 12 Catalan independence leaders has accused them of being responsible for the violence during the 2017 referendum.

Thousands of officers from Spain’s Guardia Civil and National Police were deployed in Catalonia in the run-up to and during the October 1 poll.

Spanish courts had deemed the referendum illegal and the officers tried in vain to halt it by confiscating ballot boxes and closing polling stations.

Images of them beating peaceful, would-be voters with riot batons and firing rubber bullets at them caused outrage when they were broadcast around the world.

The operation left more than 1000 civilians injured, some seriously.

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However, state prosecutor Javier Zaragoza told the Supreme Court in Madrid on the second day of the trial: “I don’t think the responsibility for the violence on referendum day can be attributed to Spain’s law enforcement, but to those who, knowing the law, mobilised thousands of citizens.

“They acted as human walls impeding the legitimate police operation.”

Public prosecutor, Fidel Cadena, said Catalan police, Mossos d’Esquadra, had taken sides “in favour of a rebellion”.

According to him, there were no illegal searches, the defendants’ phones were not tapped and their rights and freedoms were not restricted.

He said that human barricades were thrown at the Spanish officers, which contributed to “violence and intimidation”.

There are three sets of prosecutors in the trial – public and state prosecutors and, as allowed under the Spanish legal system, a private prosecutor representing the extreme right-wing party Vox, who spoke against the yellow ribbons being worn by some of those in the dock and which have become a symbol of support for the pro-independence leaders.

“One of the accused is wearing what seems to be a yellow ribbon, a politically charged symbol,” said Pedro Fernández, urging that the ribbon be removed from the courtroom out of “due respect for justice”.

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However, senior magistrate Manuel Marchena, who is overseeing the panel of seven judges, dismissed the move and said the defendants would not be prevented from using “ideological symbols”.

When the trial opened on Tuesday, defence lawyers had sought to have the trial annulled, but Zaragoza hit back yesterday, describing as “ridiculous” and “unjustified” defence arguments that the case was politically motivated and an attempt to eliminate dissent in the affluent north-eastern region.

“Those who seriously broke the constitutional order are presented as victims of persecution,” Zaragoza said.

“No-one has been persecuted for their ideas, but for their actions.”

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Rosa Maria Seoane, the solicitor general and the Spanish government’s representative in the trial, dismissed accusations that the rights of the accused had been violated.

She added: “This is a criminal trial, with full guarantees; and nothing more.”

Zaragoza was also critical of a German court’s refusal to deliver former president Carles Puigdemont to Spain on a European arrest warrant.

“The right to self-determination lacks national and international normative coverage,” he said.

“No country recognises the right to self-determination of its regions or territories.

“The German court has acted in flagrant breach of the European detention order.”

The first evidence from the accused is likely to come today – when the first to speak will be former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras, who is widely regarded as one of the most influential leaders of the Catalan independence movement.