JOSEP Lluís Trapero, the former head of the Catalan police Mossos d’Esquadra has denied that his force facilitated the holding of the October 2017 independence referendum.

Trapero – regarded as a local hero for his handling of the Barcelona terror attacks earlier the same year – said the Mossos had complied with Spanish court orders to halt the vote.

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He told the trial of 12 pro-independence leaders at Spain’s Supreme Court: “The Catalan police operation had no objective other than complying with court orders.

“There were many different ways to stop the October 1 referendum. Orders from prosecutors and the Catalan High Court were different.”

Trapero says the Mossos had closed 134 polling stations during the plebiscite, while a further 250 were never opened.

His name had already emerged during the trial, with Diego Pérez de los Cobos, the officer in charge of co-ordinating Spanish and Catalan officers on October 1, accusing him of not doing enough to stop the poll.

Trapero admitted there had been “tensions” with de los Cobos, claiming they had different criteria regarding the use of force.

De los Cobos said Spanish police only intervened after realising the Mossos “had no intention of stopping the vote”.

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However, Trapero said the Mossos’ actions were part of a broader operation which also encompassed Spanish agencies, which had taken lead in dealing with security issues.

More than 1000 people were injured as Spanish police used riot batons and rubber bullets to try to stop the poll.

Trapero is accused of rebellion – as are other defendants in this trial – and is due to be tried later in a separate court.

His evidence came as a lawyer for one of the accused, Omnium Cultural president Jordi Cuixart, raised his case at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Olivier Peter urged the international community to “not close its eyes to the arbitrary arrests of social and political leaders for actions that fall under the exercise of fundamental rights”.

He said: “Jordi Cuixart is a human rights defender and has been incarcerated for having organised massive and ever-peaceful demonstrations, which represents a real problem of respect for human rights in Spain.

“While social leaders are sleeping in prison, those responsible for the police brutality against voters of the October 1, 2017, referendum have yet to face an investigation by the Spanish judiciary, something that produces a chilling effect on the activity of those organisations acting in defence of minorities in Catalonia and in the whole of Spain.”