A FORMER Catalan government minister has accused Spain’s Constitutional Court – which ruled the 2017 referendum illegal – of acting as a political tool after being “systematically utilised by the Spanish government to suspend all initiatives by the Catalan parliament”.

Jordi Turull is one of 12 pro-independence leaders on trial at the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid for their part in organising the poll.

Turull, who was head of presidential affairs in Carles Puigdemont’s government, accused the court of lacking moral authority, and told prosecutors: “I’ve been waiting for the Constitutional Court (TC) to resolve my appeal against my preventive detention for over eight months.

“It has still not issued a ruling. [When we passed the referendum law], in less than 24 hours the court had met and suspended it.

“Putting on the clothes of a constitutionalist allows you to break the constitution when you feel like it.

“Today, I’ve been in prison for a year. How can it be that those who are denouncing us to the Constitutional Court are failing to meet verdicts from that court every day? I have been in prison for a year thanks to a legal ruling which doesn’t allow for penal reproach. Later they’ll say they’re not pursuing us for our ideas.”

Turull said neither his Democratic party’s manifesto, nor the programme for government that came later, had been challenged by the TC.

When Puigdemont submitted to a no-confidence motion in September 2016, he promised “a referendum or a referendum” if he remained in office, but Turull stressed: “The referendum, to the last minute, was attempted to be held under agreement [with Madrid].”

He was in charge of logistics for the plebiscite, and said the Catalan government could do nothing about TC orders because, by the time they arrived, the actions which had been challenged were already complete.

“When I received the notification to stop the preparation of the referendum, we considered what all the laws say … and voting can never be illegal in a democracy,” he said.

The former minister denied that on referendum day – October 1, 2017 – he had called on a public mobilisation to avoid polling stations being closed.

Turull is charged, along with other defendants, of misusing public funds by spending on the referendum, which he denied: “Not a single Euro was invested [in the referendum].

“The web page – referendum.cat – was updated, not created. It was my decision.”

He was questioned about invoices for the Catalan public media company CCMA for advertising the referendum, but he said it had no record of them and it was a free government campaign.

“Nobody understands where these invoices appeared from,” he said.

Turull went on to defend the declaration of independence that followed the poll: “It was the expression of a political will which reflected the majority feeling of the people of Catalonia.

“There was a declarative part and another which entrusted the Catalan government with doing things.

“It was a political declaration,” he said. “The parliament of Catalonia does politics.”

On the referendum itself, he added: “People, before being independence supporters are democrats, and if the result had been ‘no’, they would have accepted it.”

Puigdemont, who is in exile in Belgium, tweeted in praise of Turull’s performance: “His decision to stand firm against the public prosecution should elicit shame in those who unleashed an indecent repression.”

Former work and labour minister Dolors Bassa, who also gave evidence yesterday, told the trial the referendum – known as 1-O – was “one more act within the legislature, but never a conclusive act for independence”.

She added: “The proof is that we are here and there is no independence, independence was always considered as something [that would be] agreed upon.”