25 Jan, 2023 @ 20:00
1 min read

Five years later, 45 National Police officers could face trial for excessive force at illegal Catalan independence referendum 

National Police officers in Barcelona
National Police officers in Barcelona the day after the illegal vote on independence.

A TOTAL of 45 officers from Spain’s National Police force could see the inside of a courtroom for their alleged excessive use of force during the illegal referendum on independence that was held in Catalunya on October 1, 2017. 

It has taken a judge five years to investigate the events of that day, which were the culmination of efforts by the region to break away from Spain, and led to a unilateral declaration of independence passed by the Catalan parliament. 

Images of police violence during the voting were seen across the world, and drew widespread international condemnation of Spain. 

In his conclusions, the judge reports having found ‘unnecessary’ and ‘gratuitous’ episodes of violence against members of the public who came out to participate in the ballot. Some of these actions, he added, were also either authorised or tolerated by police chiefs on the ground. 

Images of the police violence from the October 1, 2017 illegal referendum in Catalunya.

The public prosecutor now has a month to decide whether to call for the case to be shelved, or whether to formally accuse some or all of the police officers in question, Spanish daily El Pais  reports. 

The judge ruled out accusations against 20 other officers, who he found had behaved within the regulations. But the other 45 could face charges of assault as well as offences against the victims’ personal integrity. 

The investigation made use of videos recorded by citizens during the police charges, which in some cases came without any warning. 

At the Prosperitat public school, for example, officers charged against the public without giving a proper warning of the use of force. 

The judge pointed out that here, as at other voting stations, there were ‘older people’ in the crowd who were not showing ‘any aggressive attitudes’ toward the officers.

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Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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