The countdown to the trial against Catalan political prisoners has already begun. This week itself ended the deadline for the defenses to ask for the revocation of the instruction, which will surely be dismissed by the Second Chamber of the Supreme Court. Thereafter, the trial court can present its conclusions from the investigations and the opening of the trial can be decreed. However, the prisoners’ defense will seek to block it until their appeals are resolved.
The defense estimates that the trial will begin in January. And that this could last for about two months, just before the campaign for local and European elections begin. However, they suspect that the Supreme Court could intend to initiate the trial in November in order to take the defense by surprise and undermine their strategy.
Until now, the opening of the trial has been delayed because the defense has appealed the instructions of Judge Llarena and the provisional orders of imprisonment. The recusations against the members of the court have already been rejected.
Given that there are local and European elections in May 2019, the Supreme Court is not expected to announce the final sentence for the Catalan political prisoners, which will likely be up to 25 years in prison for each one, until June or July. The court believes that the announcement of the sentences before the aforementioned elections could give pro-independence parties landslide victories, which would legitimize Catalonia’s independence.
Meanwhile, the Catalan leaders Oriol Junqueras, Carme Forcadell, Jordi Turull, Dolors Bassa, Josep Rull, Quim Forn, Jordi Sànchez, Raül Romeva, and Jordi Cuixart are expected to remain in prison before the trial.
Additional Information About the Case
In the filings of the prosecution, the public prosecutor and VOX party will have to specify the crimes for which the defendants will be tried. Right now, the nine political prisoners are being prosecuted for rebellion and embezzlement – the latter, in the case of the Puigdemont government advisers. This is where the state prosecutor’s office can make a gesture of distension and reduce the classification of Crimes and Petitions of Penalties, despite the opposition of the Supreme Court prosecutors. It is not expected that the VOX party will do so, but a reduction in the rhetoric of the prosecutor’s office can lower the fervor surrounding the trial, just as it could open a crisis between the prosecutor’s office and the state prosecutor’s office by not doing so.
JxCat: Confrontation and immediate implementation of the Republic
JxCat does not renounce “any democratic and peaceful means” to bring about the Republic and aims to win it “through intelligent and peaceful confrontation with the Spanish state.” It defends “an indispensable commitment to pacifism, non-violence and the active (internal and international) action of all institutions, as well as citizen mobilization and strict obedience to the legality that arises from the Catalan parliament, not the Spanish one.”
JxCat also urges a response to the needs of all citizens, claiming that this should be a process with an inclusive intent and maximum civic participation to expand social support and achieve “majorities that allow safeguarding the popular will, and especially that of their legitimate representatives.”
JxCat believes that “ideal” conditions to implement the Republic could be achieved between this September and May: the commemoration of the October 1st independence referendum, the trial against jailed Catalan leaders and their sentences of up to 30 years in prison could create a perfect momentum for pro-independence parties to proclaim independence and call for its defense. According to sources, this would come by President Torra calling for an early election in November, aimed at pro-independence parties winning more than 50% of the total vote in order to legitimize the implementation of the Republic in the eyes of the international community.
Given that scenario, Presidents Puigdemont and Torra recently created a new political platform called the “Crida Nacional,” a political platform aimed at unifying all pro-independence forces under the same party to win an eventual election. This platform is likely to be constituted as a political party on October 1st. (President Torra can legally call for an early election starting October 27th.)
ERC: Growing social support for independence before implementing the Republic
The leadership of ERC would like to postpone the implementation of the Republic until social support for independence is a clear majority: around 60 to 70%. The bases of the party, however, recently forced the leadership of the party to include the possible immediate implementation of the Republic, if “conditions” are met, in its roadmap.
At the political level, ERC wants to increase “synergies and complicities” with sectors that are in favor of democratic principles and exercise the right to self-determination, despite not being independentists like CeC, and keep a “fluid and profitable dialogue with constitutionalist political parties of Catalanist tradition” like the PSC.
At the social and territorial level, ERC is committed to finding new support from working classes, women, and newcomers, as well as campaigning in Barcelona and the metropolitan areas of the country, which are pro-Spain strongholds. To achieve this, ERC pursues involvement in active processes of social change and democratic renewal that can be driven by non-pro-independence sectors, “to emphasize the desire to build a new, fairer country.“ A plan that should be based on “civic patriotism, secularism, and inclusiveness,” to prevent any fracture of society. They also underline that the new Republic “will be sensitive to respecting and preserving multiple identities and the diverse feelings of belonging that will be present within their citizenship.”
ERC will support the implementation of the Republic when the conditions are met (probably in autumn). This will come from organizing and coordinating with other social actors, massive actions which could range from “mass demonstrations to an indefinite strike,” without setting limits. They also emphasize the need to keep all acts of disobedience peaceful.
It also proposes that other political parties “train and organize” together, with other pro-independence organizations, so they will be ready to defend the Republic. The goal is to avoid the situation of lack of coordination of last October when the Catalan government ruled out the possibility of defending the Republic.
Finally, ERC recognizes the importance of individual actions from the Catalans to disconnect from the State and the regime of the 78. For example, it is committed to promoting financial entities and companies “with social conscience and that do not depend on the favors of the Spanish government.”
The Primary objective of ERC in carrying out acts of civil disobedience, however, is to force the Spanish State to negotiate a self-determination referendum. That is, “to ensure that the government of Madrid assumes a framework of dialogue and bilateral negotiation in order to make possible a democratic resolution,” which will have to be mediated by international bodies.
CUP: Similar strategy as ERC in social matters, but believes that social changes can only be achieved in an independent Catalonia
The CUP claims to stay alive within the state from the beginning and organize a “non-violent mass civil and institutional disobedience.” It makes clear that disobedience must be the central driver of the new phase of the process, in which it is committed to “mobilization and civil disobedience and massive nonviolent institution disobedience.” It believes in new offensives that create tension and permanent instability to deepen the crisis of the political regime of the 78 inside and outside of Spain.
Not a step back or a break, the anticapitalists try to “keep the situation with Spain alive [… ] through disobedience at all levels, inside and outside the institutions,” with a clear objective : “To reach that place from which we can challenge the State and initiate the application of the agreements, laws and actions necessary to truly establish the new Republic.”
CUP is also committed to “unequivocally and definitively linking the struggle for national liberties, the fight for social rights, and the feminist struggle” and, in the case of the independence movement, strengthen “the central role in the struggle of working classes, popular and class feminists.” In order to achieve this, it urges the creation of community decision spaces shared between independence, republicanism, and social movements.”The participation of the working class and the whole of the popular classes” in the construction of the Republic is another one of its pillars.
In contrast with ERC, the CUP is skeptical about possible agreement frameworks for independence, as it emphasizes that “there is no possibility of negotiating anything with the Spanish state other than surrender” and, in fact, it warns that, if the [Republican] movement is weakened, Spain would deepen its intervention in all areas.” The anticapitalists, however, admit that they must end up in a multilateral negotiation phase, but they say that disobedience is the only way to force international actors to mediate.
The leader of the Spanish ultra nationalist Ciudadanos party in Catalonia, Ines Arrimadas, accused the Catalan government on Sunday of being responsible for recent aggressions against people who wear yellow ribbons.
“The Catalan government should accept that yellow ribbons don’t represent all the Catalans,” Arrimadas said.
Arrimadas avoided condemning such aggressions, and instead, called on the Catalan government to maintain institutional neutrality by removing yellow ribbons from governmental buildings. She believes that everybody is free to wear yellow ribbons on their jackets or use other types of symbology at home, but never in institutions because according to her, yellow ribbons are comparable to symbols like the “swastika” used by the Nazis.
“We’re worried about the social fracture and these acts of ‘violence’ can happen. We have been the first party to say that we must discuss how to recover peaceful coexistence and reconciliation among Catalans.” Asked if the Catalan political parties should do self-criticism, she said that C’s has proposed a plenary session to discuss the Catalan conflict and the return to Spanish constitutional legality. “We want everyone to participate, it will mean that the social fracture worries the rest of political parties.
In this way, Arrimadas avoided condemning the recent fascist attacks against peaceful pro-independence supporters. In the last few weeks, Arrimadas and her political party have been accused of endorsing these kinds of violent attacks against innocents and some of their members have been seen in nocturnal squads removing yellow ribbons from the streets in numerous cities across Catalonia.
Since Pedro Sánchez (PSOE) became the new Spanish prime minister, following a successful motion of no-confidence against the then Prime Minister Rajoy on June 2nd, C’s appears to have hardened its position against pro-independence supporters, probably expecting to recover the big social support that they once had, and have lost in hardly a week.
A few days before the motion took place, C’s was leading all the polls for new Spanish elections, reaching 28,6% of the votes against 20% for the PSOE. However, with Pedro Sánchez (PSOE) as prime minister, the tables have been turned with C’s losing nearly 8% of their support, becoming the third party in Parliament with only 21,1% of votes, behind the PP and the PSOE who went on to win the elections with 28,8% of the votes.
With those “awful” projections, C’s appears to have launched an anti-Catalan campaign aimed at getting support from traditional PP supporters. In past elections, an anti-Catalan discourse gained millions of new voters and the victory to the PP.
Hence, it is expected that C’s will continue making attacks against pro-independence supporters until the next elections take place in 2020. Chaos and an escalation in the conflict between Spain and Catalonia may give them a chance of winning the elections and becoming the leading party in Spain.
The new presidential candidate, Quim Torra (JxCat), is well-known for his fierce defense of the Catalan Republic. Ex-president of Òmnium Cultural, one of the major Catalan pro-independence organizations, Torra was chosen by President Puigdemont to lead a provisional government aimed at the construction of the Republic.
Quim Torra was born in Blanes, a small town on the north side of Barcelona, in 1962. He has a degree in law, was director of the Born Cultural Centre until 2015 and director of the Centre of Studies of Contemporary Topics of the Catalan government until last October.
Torra presented his MP candidacy for JxCat as an independent. He isn’t a member of any political party. He also formed part of the team which negotiated the government manifesto with CUP and ERC in advance of an expected investiture. His presidential candidacy comes after the Spanish Constitutional Court blocked the investiture of Puigdemont, the legitimate President of Catalonia, who then activated the plan “D,” the provisional investiture of Torra until he can be sworn in later by the legislature.
The expectation is that Torra will be elected as President of Catalonia in a second round on Monday after not achieving an absolute majority in the first round on Saturday after the CUP decided to keep its abstention in its political council held on Sunday.
Although unlikely, if the Spanish government or the Constitutional Court decides to block Torra’s investiture, there will be a new election in two months.
The failure of the negotiations for the formation of a new government between pro-independence parties in the last two months, has forced ERC and PDeCAT to carry out a deep internal restructure.
Numerous influential groups within PDeCAT are demanding that the leadership call for an ideologically extreme congress aimed at establishing a new strategy. They argue that PDeCAT is not defending the mandate of the latest election: the immediate implementation of the Catalan Republic. They also accuse the current party leadership of betraying Puigdemont, arguing that they only defended his candidacy at the last moment, which ultimately led to his resignation and the nomination of the jailed Jordi Sánchez as new candidate.
ERC has also announced that it will soon hold an ideological conference aimed at unifying the party and choose a new strategy. This move comes after numerous ERC representatives from numerous cities across the country publicly showed disagreement with the leadership of the party. They argued that ERC has given up on construction of the Catalan Republic due to their fear of repression by Spain. That is why they are also demanding that all the leaders of the party who are scared of ending up in prison must step aside and allow new members who are willing to disobey Spain to implement the Republic.
Sources close to the leadership recently said that they won’t resign and will instead try to impose a new strategy, aimed at respecting the current Spanish legal framework and implementing measures to grow social support for independence. However, the party bases appear to be willing to push until their resignation.
On Monday, Catalan Parliament speaker, Roger Torrent, nominated the jailed leader, Jordi Sànchez, as a presidential candidate. One day later, he also announced that the investiture session to swear Sànchez in will be held in Parliament next Monday at 10 am.
The Spanish government warned that they won’t allow him to become president. However, the final decision will be made by the Spanish Supreme Court.
According to an important number of jurists, if Judge Llarena, who is leading the case against Catalan pro-independence leaders, does not allow Sànchez to be sworn in as President, he would be prevaricating. Thus, if Sànchez appeals that possible decision to higher courts, including the European ones and wins, the whole case against Catalan pro-independence leaders would be nullified. And all the Catalan political prisoners would have to be released immediately.