SPANISH National Police officers have tried to justify the damage they caused to schools which were being used as polling stations during the 2017 Catalan independence referendum.

An unidentified officer, one of several who gave evidence anonymously at the Supreme Court in Madrid, told the trial of 12 independence leaders that at one school – where Carme Forcadell, speaker of the Catalan Parliament, was to vote – 30 gates were bent and buckled in the search for ballot boxes because they had to act quickly.

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Under cross-examination by Benet Salellas, one of Jordi Cuixart’s legal team, the agent said: “There were other doors that had access to the upper area of the school ... it was feasible that they [the boxes] had been hidden there, and people.

“We found nothing, neither the boxes nor the people.”

In video recordings published last year of the police intervention at the school, officers were seen breaking windows to gain access and smashing open closed doors, while those inside simply held up their hands offering no resistance.

Another officer agreed with Salellas that when he mentioned a defence siege at the school, he was referring to a group of people who were unarmed.

He said: “Precisely, people are congregated, they are simply, as you say, peaceful ... When I say a defence siege it is when they are grouped, crowded, they twisted their arms and made a human wall … nobody had weapons … nothing.”

Another agent told the court he had witnessed officers from the Catalan police, Mossos d’Esquadra, leaving one school and getting into a car that was registered to the Catalan Government’s department of the presidency.

“All of our suspicions about the Catalan police were confirmed in that moment,” he said.

One witness said he was followed by “two Catalan plainclothes police officers wearing earbuds with microphones, in a car that was property of the presidency ministry”.

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Another appeared to confirm Mossos claims from earlier in the trial that the National Police had kept them in the dark about operational issues surrounding the indyref.

The officer said that no joint operation with the Mossos was considered when they were deciding which polling stations they would target.

One witness said it was “dangerous” for Spanish police to enter polling stations, and that voters were blocking entrances and “shoving” them, while another said he saw voters carrying “sticks, helmets, and chains”.

He said there was a violent atmosphere, but denied seeing any definitive acts of violence.

The trial continues.