Spain’s Supreme Court has imposed prison sentences of up to 13 years and bans on nine leaders of the Catalan independence movement in Madrid. The charges of rebellion were dropped by the judges, but the accusations of disobedience, rebellion and embezzlement of public funds in connection with the independence referendum of 1 October 2017 were sufficient for harsh sentences.
The former speaker of the Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell, was sentenced to 11 years and six months in prison for rioting. Shortly after the verdict was handed down, she wrote on her Twitter account:
The injustice was accomplished. A free parliamentary debate is not a crime, it is a right to exercise it and a duty to defend it. We never tire of saying that wherever necessary. Today is a black day for democracy, but not even in moments like this, they should defeat us. We will get through this.
La injustícia s'ha consumat. El lliure debat parlamentari no és delicte, és un dret exercir-lo i un deure defensar-lo. No ens cansarem de dir-ho allà on faci falta. Avui la democràcia viu un dia fosc, però ni en moments així el derrotisme ens ha de vèncer. Ens en sortirem!— Carme Forcadell (@ForcadellCarme) October 14, 2019
Also in custody, Jordi Sanchez, Chairman of the Civil Society Organisation Assemblea Nacional Catalana (ANC), and Jordi Cuixart, President of the cultural organisation ‘mnium Cultural,’ both in custody since 16 October 2017, as well as the former ministers of the The Catalan government, Jordi Turull, Raül Romeva, Dolors Bassa, Josep Rull and Joaquim Forn were found guilty of the same crime.
Oriol Junqueras, Raül Romeva, Jordi Turull and Dolors Bassa were also convicted of misusing public funds. Junqueras, vice-president of Catalonia from January 2016 to October 2017, received a 13-year prison sentence. He was also banned from public office for 13 years.
A mistake of historic proportions!
Dr. Alfred Bosch, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Catalan Government, said after the verdict that this was “a political process” in which “persons are convicted solely on the basis of their political convictions”. The verdict itself, which puts 9 of the 12 defendants in prison, is “a mistake of historic proportions” that will not solve the problem, but exacerbate it.
Oriol Junqueras | Upheaval and embezzlement | 13 years in prison and 13 years in office
Jordi Turull | Upheaval and embezzlement | 12 years imprisonment and 12 years ban
Dolors Bassa | Upheaval and embezzlement | 12 years imprisonment and 12 years ban
Raül Romeva | Upheaval and embezzlement | 12 years imprisonment and 12 years ban
Carme Forcadell | Uproar | 11.5 years imprisonment and 11.5 years ban
Joaquim Forn | Uproar | 10.5 years imprisonment and 10.5 years ban
Josep Rull | Uproar | 10.5 years imprisonment and 10.5 years ban
Jordi Sanchez | Uproar | 9 years imprisonment and 9 years ban
Jordi Cuixart | Uproar | 9 years imprisonment and 9 years ban
Carles Munda, former Catalan Minister of Justice, Meritxell Borrés (former Minister of Government, Public Administration and Housing) and Santi Vila (former Minister of Economy and Science) were convicted of disobedience, received but no prison sentences and no prohibition of office.
The Violence of the State
In the end, the political dimension of the procedure, which was primarily concerned with the enforcement of the interests of the Spanish State, remains in the memory. The starting position is very simple. A not insignificant part of the Catalan population, currently around 44 percent, according to polls, is seeking independence from Spain. The Spanish central government in Madrid wants to prevent this and preserve the entirety of the Spanish state, as laid down in the Spanish constitution in 1978. It is already clear that the European nation states will disintegrate into metropolitan regions.
The Catalan independence referendum on 1 October 2017 provided the opportunity to prosecute those political and civil society forces that wish to exercise their right to sovereignty and independence.
The Constitutional Court had previously declared the referendum illegal. Thus, the vote would have been a pattern of no value, because the referendum would not have resulted in any binding nature, but it would have been interpreted merely as an inventory and declaration of intent, the result of which would have been based on political and diplomatic means should have been transferred to a binding nature. However, voting was still held in Catalonia.
The Spanish state and its government, led at the time of the referendum by the Partido Popular, which was stuck to its neck in the corruption swamp, recognized in the catalan slate of a threat to its own existence. The response was met with massive police violence, the arrest of pro-independence supporters and the forced administration of the autonomous region.
Although no stones flew, no cars burned, and the Catalans did not even resist when Guardia Civil units slapped them for holding a ballot paper, the political concern was defamed with the insinuation of the rebellion. But rebellion means violence, and it was only on one side, in the Spanish state.
Many Catalan politicians fled abroad. Former President Carles Puigdemont, who led the independence movement, went into exile in Belgium to avoid arrest. Spain pursued him in vain with an international arrest warrant. This was repealed, but now, immediately after the madrid verdicts, it was reissued. The accusation of rebellion is not being made, but Puigdemont is accused of rioting and misuse of public funds.
What did the European Union do? She was silent. The question of Catalonia is an “internal matter” of Spain.
In the trial of the pro-independence supporters, the politically motivated repression reached its provisional climax. The trial, which began on 12 February 2019, is considered to be one of the largest and perhaps most important trials since the Transicion, the transition from Franco fascism to a parliamentary democracy initiated after Franco’s death.
In addition to the public prosecutor’s office and the legal service of the Spanish state, which represented the state in court, the far-right party Vox took part in the proceedings as private plaintiffs. This was possible because of a peculiarity in the Spanish legal system.
International actors strongly criticised the procedure. The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, based at the United Nations, issued two statements calling for the immediate release of seven of the Catalan political prisoners. The Spanish state did not respond.
What happens next?
Catalan independence supporters want to appeal against the verdicts. The Catalan National Assembly and the Cultural Association Omnium Cultural have called for rallies and rallies. Demonstrations are taking place throughout Catalonia. Mass protests are reported from Barcelona. El Prat Airport is virtually blocked.
Catalan President Quim Torra is calling for an amnesty for those convicted, stressing that the sentences would not deter his government from continuing its quest for independence. Torra said: “Repression will never triumph over dialogue, democracy and self-determination.”