In early 2019 a political trial against Catalan political and civil leaders will take place in Madrid. For months the democratically elected representatives of the Catalan people will face the charges of a crime (rebellion) that they did not commit, as the only violence in the Catalan self-determination process was that of the Spanish police repressing the October 1, 2017 referendum on independence. The Spanish institutions are trying to convert a right (self-determination) into a crime. Democratic societies should not tolerate fundamental rights being violated in the heart of Europe.
Autumn 2017: The political and judiciary events
October 1: A self-determination referendum in Catalonia is violently repressed by the Spanish Police. 1,066 voters are treated by the medical services. 250 polling stations are closed down. Despite the repression, the referendum is held. 2,286,217 vote (43% turnout) and 90% (2,044,038) vote YES.
October 16: Two presidents of Catalan NGOs, Jordi Sànchez of the Assemblea Nacional Catalana (ANC, Catalan National Assembly), and Jordi Cuixart of Òmnium Cultural, are jailed without bail accused of sedition for a peaceful demonstration held on September 20.
October 27: An independence declaration is approved by the Catalan Parliament (70 MPs in favour, 10 against, 2 blank, and 52 absentees). Direct rule is activated by the Spanish Government, the Catalan Government is dismissed, the Catalan Parliament is dissolved and elections are called by the Spanish government.
November 2: The Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont and four ministers are in exile in Brussels. Eight ministers are initially jailed without bail, accused of rebellion for having organized the referendum that was to lead to the parliamentary resolution declaring independence.
December 21: Elections to the Catalan Parliament. The Catalan independence options win. With a 70.09% turnout, pro-independence parties get 47.5% of the popular vote and 70 seats, anti-Independence parties 43.3% of the popular vote and 57 seats while a pro-referendum coalition ambivalent on independence wins 7.4% of the vote and 8 seats.
The trials and the political repression
July 2018: A German court denies the extradition of President Puigdemont for rebellion as it receives no evidence of the violence required for this type of crime. The Spanish judge withdraws the European Arrest Warrants to avoid having to try him only for misuse of funds, and/or losing the other Catalan ministers’ extradition cases: those of Clara Ponsatí -in Scotland-, Toni Comín, Lluís Puig and Meritxell Serret -in Belgium-; and that of political leader Marta Rovira in Switzerland (where former MP Anna Gabriel is also in exile).
November 2018: The public prosecutor proposes the charges:
- Rebellion and misuse of funds: Vicepresident Junqueras (25 years in prison); Jordi Sànchez, ANC, Jordi Cuixart, Òmnium, and Carme Forcadell, speaker of the Parliament (17 years of prison); Ministers Jordi Turull, Josep Rull, Raül Romeva, Dolors Bassa and Joaquim Forn (16 years in prison)
- Contempt of court and misuse of funds: Ministers Carles Mundó, Meritxell Borràs and Santi Vila (7 years in prison)
- Contempt of court: Anna Simó, Lluís Coromines, Ramona Barrufet, Lluís Guinó and Joan-Josep Nuet, members of the board of the Parliament; and Mireia Boya, MP (debarment from office and fine).
January 2019: The Supreme Court starts the trial against 12 political leaders and leaders of the social movements accused of rebellion and/or misuse of funds.
The members of the board of the Parliament, with the exception of the Speaker, and some MPs and high officials of the Catalan Parliament will be tried by the High Court of Catalonia (TSJC) for contempt of court.
The chief of the Catalan Police, Josep Lluís Trapero, and three other high-ranking officers will be tried by the National Court under the charges of rebellion or sedition for not having violently repressed the Catalan referendum.
Seven hundred mayors are being investigated, several teachers are accused of hate speech, dozens of activists have been detained (for participating in the general strike of October 3, 2017 or November 8, 2017 or in the protests against the imprisonment of political leaders) and two were arrested under the antiterrorism law, and several rappers have been jailed or exiled for the political content of their songs (Pablo Hasel, Valtònyc).
Violation of human rights
- The denial of the right of the Catalans to hold a referendum is itself a serious denial of democracy
The right of self-determination for all peoples is recognized by article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In repressing the self-determination referendum, Spain violated other articles of the Covenant:
article 7 (inhuman or degrading treatment of the people by the police)
article 19 (right of freedom of expression)
article 21 (right of peaceful assembly)
article 22 (right of association)
article 25 (right to participate in the conduct of public affairs)
- Abuse of pre-trial detention
At the beginning of the trial, the defendants will have been in pre-trial detention for between ten and fifteen months. The judge has denied several times their release, on grounds such as their not renouncing their beliefs on independence or the probability of new mobilizations.
The resolution of appeals for protection to the Constitutional Court, against pre-trial detention, have been delayed for more than a year, thus blocking the access of the detainees to the European Court of Human Rights, and therefore, by the complaint not being processed, lengthening the period of irreparable damage caused by the arbitrary detentions.
- The right to a fair trial has not been guaranteed
Many of the defendants will be judged by a court (the Supreme Court) lacking jurisdiction and preventing them the right to appeal, given that it is the highest ordinary court. The events took place in Catalonia and should have been tried in Catalonia.The Speaker of the Parliament who is a member of a collective board will be judged by the Supreme Court while the other members of the board will be judged by the Spanish High Court in Catalonia.The Spanish Supreme Court has denied the Catalan political prisoners the right to be tried in their own language, Catalan. The far-right political party Vox, which advocates the outlawing of the pro-independence parties and associations, is acting as a popular prosecutor in the trials, seeking prison sentences which are considerably longer than those sought by the public prosecutor.
- Other political rights have been violated
Carles Puigdemont, (president in exile) and Jordi Sànchez (the ANC’s former president in pre-trial detention) as elected MPs, were denied the right to run for the presidency of the Catalan government. The UN Human Rights Committee requested interim measures to ensure Jordi Sanchez’s political rights, but these were ignored by the Spanish judge.Carles Puigdemont, Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Sànchez, Josep Rull, Jordi Turull and Raül Romeva, members of the Catalan Parliament, have been suspended from office before the trial.