The head of the government testified today before the High Court of Justice of Catalonia, where he is facing trial for not ordering the removal of banners and yellow ribbons expressing support for Catalan political prisoners and exiles.
President Torra before his appearance at the High Court of Justice of Catalonia. Photograph: Jordi Bedmar

In testimony before the High Court of Justice of Catalonia today, the president of the Government of Catalonia, Quim Torra, defended his decision to “not obey” an “illegal” order from the Central Electoral Board instructing him to have yellow ribbons and banners removed from the Generalitat’s public buildings.  “Yes, I disobeyed the order,” said the president, “because it was illegal [and because], as the president of the Government of Catalonia, I was fulfilling my duty, which is to defend the rights and freedoms of my fellow citizens.” The president said he would “never allow these hard-won rights and freedoms to be violated or trampled on”.

The president insisted that the order issued by the Central Electoral Board was “null” because the board “isn’t hierarchically superior to the president of the Government of Catalonia” and because the Generalitat “wasn’t participating in the electoral process”. He also pointed out that not all of the Generalitat’s buildings are under the president’s authority. Therefore, the president argued, the Board “wanted to make me commit a wrongful act by issuing a general order to remove estelada flags, yellow ribbons and banners expressing support for our political prisoners and exiles when I clearly didn’t have the authority to do so”.

In response to questions from his lawyers, the president explained that the banners were put up in support of the political prisoners and exiles because “there’s a broad consensus in Catalan society that the judicialisation of politics is something we don’t like. In fact, we find it reprehensible.” The president also pointed out that the Catalan Parliament had twice rejected a proposal urging the government to remove the ribbons and banners from public buildings. He also cited international support, including “a highly important opinion issued by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention that called on the Spanish government to take steps to publicise irregularities committed in connection with the injustice being perpetrated”.

“The question isn’t why there were banners up, but rather why banners weren’t hanging on all Catalonia’s public buildings,” said the president. “I’ll never order anyone to take down a ribbon, an estelada flag, or any other symbol they believe should be displayed on their building.”