Spain court acquits Catalan police for role in secession bid

A Madrid court on Wednesday acquitted the heads of Catalonia’s regional police of charges of sedition and disobedience for what state prosecutors had argued was their alleged role in the northeast region’s 2017 secession attempt.

Spain’s National Court ruled in a 2-1 decision that police chief Josep Lluis Trapero, officer Teresa Laplana, and political heads Pere Soler and César Puig hadn't supported the illegal secession referendum organized against court orders by Catalonia’s government prior to its unsuccessful declaration of independence.

State prosecutors had accused the four of conspiring with separatist politicians to hold the Oct. 1 referendum and for their alleged reticence to help national police forces during protests by separatists. Prosecutors had asked for prison sentences of 10 years for Trapero, Soler and Puig, and four years for Laplana.

Prosecutors accused Trapero and his civilian bosses of having intentionally allowed voting to occur despite court orders to impede the referendum, leaving fellow national police forces to bear the brunt of the operation to stop the vote. The Oct. 1, 2017 referendum was marred by hundreds of injuries in violent clashes between National Police and Civil Guard officers and voters when the police tried to confiscate ballot boxes.

The court, however, said “there is not one piece of incriminatory evidence demonstrating the agreement of the accused in acting as an instrument of the separatist movement.”

The ruling can be appealed.

Last year, Spain’s Supreme Court condemned 12 separatist politicians and activist leaders on charges of sedition and the misuse of public funds for leading the secession bid. Nine were found guilty of sedition and given prison sentences of nine to 13 years.