No fair trial for Catalan political prisoners

The trial starts with the request of 214 years of prison for the Catalan leaders

The members and friends of the European political party European Free Alliance (EFA) want to express our deep concern about the unfair trial that is about to begin against the Catalan leaders  and  Catalan political prisoners, who have already been on pretrial detention for over a year now. The trial starts with the request of Spain’s prosecutors to demand a sum up of 214 years in prison to the accused for having organized a referendum on self-determination on October 1st 2017.

Catalans leaders have been charged with crimes of rebellion (that implies the use of violence), sedition and misuse of public funds. Not only these accusations are false and made up to fit into a narrative that justifies the above mentioned charges, but they have also been refuted by the Belgian, Scottish and German Courts, when they refused to extradite to Spain the former Catalan President Puigdemont and the Ministers in exile on the grounds of rebellion and sedition based on a total lack of violence of the accused nor of those following their political stands.  

In November 2018, Spain’s public prosecutor formally charged Oriol Junqueras, the former Catalan vice-president, with rebellion and demanded a 25-year sentence for him. The former Catalan government ministers Joaquim Forn, Jordi Turull, Josep Rull, Raül Romeva and Dolors Bassa all face 16-year sentences each. Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, the President and the former leader of the two main Catalan grassroots movements respectively, and Carme Forcadell, the former president in the Catalan parliament, face 17 year imprisonment each as “promoters and leaders” of the rebellion. And seven more people -former politicians and policemen- sentenced for minor offenses of 4 up to 11 years each in prison.

We, the members and friends of EFA believe that the prosecuted have not committed any crime. After having tried it all to negotiate an agreement with the Spanish government, the Catalan leaders only received negative answers and closed doors to any political solution to their democratic aspirations and needs. 

Following these constant disregards to their legitimate requests, the Catalan leaders decided to implement and help carrying out what the Catalan people mandated them for: to hold a referendum on the independence of Catalonia. We strongly believe that organising a vote on issues of crucial importance for a population, like the independence of Catalonia, is a symbol of the value of democracy rather than a crime. 

The conflict between Catalonia and Spain is a political conflict and, as such, it needs a political solution rather than a judicial one. Unfortunately, the current Spanish government led by Pedro Sanchez, likewise this of his predecessor, Mariano Rajoy, doesn’t seem to be willing to engage into a constructive political dialogue with the Catalan government, where all democratic ways to exercise self-determination could be taken into consideration.

The judicialization of this case will bring no solution to the conflict. On the contrary, it will deepen it and its consequences will last for decades. On top of that, the high political weight of this issue, the “record” of the judges’ previous sentences and their political stands and the proven lack of power division in Spain, makes that the guarantees for a fair trial of the prosecuted be put into serious question.

The European Union is corresponsible of this situation. It should intervene as soon as possible to demand a political solution to the existing political conflict and act as a “watchdog” against further violations of civil, political and human rights by the Spanish government in relation to the Catalan conflict.  

“The Catalan leaders are being punished for doing what they were elected for: negotiating a consultation with Madrid and, if this proved impossible, carrying out a referendum”, says EFA President Jordi Solé. “If anything should be underlined of the independence movement and the referendum on October 1st, it is its strong pacifism. The only violence that truly occurred was that of the Spanish police against those who peacefully went to vote. Many international observers were there on that very day and saw the police violence with their own eyes”.

Solé continues stating that “a political conflict should never be resolved through judicial channels! The right to self-determination – a right recognized by the UN – may not be explicitly recognized by a constitution but exercising it peacefully and democratically can never be considered a criminal offense”. “The trail that is about to start is not only against the Catalan political prisoners but also against the millions of Catalans that voted in the referendum. It is going to be one of the most shameful political trials that the EU has ever seen”, Solé concludes.