MADRID: The former chief of Catalonia' police force said on Thursday (Mar 14) his officers were ready to arrest the region's ex-president Carles Puigdemont during the failed 2017 independence bid, if they had been asked to do so by judicial authorities.
Speaking at the Madrid trial of 12 Catalan separatist leaders over the 2017 attempt to secede from Spain, former Mossos d'Esquadra chief Jose Luis Trapero also said he warned Puigdemont that going ahead with an independence referendum on Oct 1, 2017 despite a court ban would "provoke public order problems".
"We are going to face around two million people" who want to vote, Trapero said he told Puigdemont during a meeting a few days before the referendum.
Trapero said he called judicial authorities on Oct 27, 2017 - the day that the regional Catalan parliament declared independence in vain - to inform them that officers were "available" to arrest Puigdemont and his ministers, if ordered to by the courts or public prosecutors.
Puigdemont fled to Belgium shortly after the declaration of independence.
Spain's central government dismissed Trapero on Oct 28, a day after it dissolved the Catalan parliament and imposed direct control on the region over its independence bid.
Trapero is facing his own separate trial.
A Spanish judge in April formally charged him with rebellion over his alleged role in the wealthy region's independence push, which could carry a prison sentence of up to 15 years.
No date for his trial has been set.
Judge Carmen Lamela of the National Court accuses the Mossos of not taking steps to stop the referendum from going ahead as ordered by the courts.
But during his testimony on Thursday Trapero denied that the Mossos had "any intention to facilitate" the referendum after the order to block it was given by the courts.
His testimony contradicts that given by those in charge of Spain's national police last week.
They told the court that the Mossos did not comply as their leaders sided with Catalonia's separatist government, leaving it to national police to seize ballot papers and boxes, leading to clashes in roughly 30 polling stations.
Nine of the 12 Catalan separatist leaders on trial in the Supreme Court have also been charged with rebellion for their role in staging the referendum and a short-lived independence declaration that followed.
Establishing whether or not separatists used violence is key to proving the charge of rebellion, which under Spanish law is defined as "rising up violently and publicly".
The separatist leaders have always denied encouraging any form of violence.