The Trial Against Catalan Political Prisoners Gets Closer

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.

Advertisements

Roadmaps of JxCat, ERC, and CUP for the Implementation of the Catalan Republic

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.

 

 

President Quim Torra

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.

Imminent Internal Restructuring of ERC and PDeCAT

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.

Pro-independence Agreement on Puigdemont’s Investiture in the Coming Days

JxCat and ERC appear to be close to reaching a final agreement on Puigdemont’s investiture. Elsa Artadi, the JxCat spokeswoman who is leading the negotiations, said this morning, “The negotiations with ERC have progressed significantly. I think we will be able to reach and make public a final agreement on Pugdemont’s investiture tomorrow.”

During the weekend, representatives of ERC and JxCat met several times in Brussels and Barcelona, seeking to reach an agreement. While they agreed that Puigdemont is the only legitimate candidate (as demonstrated by the latest general election) to become president, they showed discrepancies on the legal procedure to make it possible without putting more pro-independence leaders in danger.

During the meeting, JxCat’s representatives said that they are willing to disobey Spanish Constitutional Court orders, considering that they have always been proved to be biased and antidemocratic against the Catalans. However, representatives of ERC said that the investiture of Puigdemont wouldn’t mean that more Catalan MPs would end up in prison.

According to sources present in the meetings, JxCat and ERC are negotiating the investiture of two presidents and the creation of two governments. The legitimate one would be based in Brussels and the second one (in Barcelona) would rule the country while implementing the Catalan Republic. This move could allow pro-independence parties to bypass Spanish justice while taking effective steps towards the independence of Catalonia.

The idea would be to use a pro-independence assembly (created in 2016) of local and Catalan-wide elected members to swear in Puigdemont as legitimate president in Brussels. At the same time, another person would be appointed to preside over the Catalan Parliament. According to sources, President Puigdemont would (symbolically) rule Catalonia from Brussels.

However, the CUP, a minor party which guarantees the pro-independence absolute majority in Parliament, opposes this option, believing that there must be only one president and a government willing to disobey Spain in order to effectively implement the Catalan Republic. They said that they won’t attend the investiture session, which would make the election of a president impossible, unless their conditions are met.

The second option on the table would be to reform the Regulation of the Catalan Parliament to bypass Spanish justice and swear in Puigdemont at a distance. However, Spanish officials have already announced that this move would be brought to the Spanish Constitutional Court, which would likely declare it unconstitutional. They added that this move would also mean that the members of the Catalan Parliament Bureau, who may approve it, would face legal liabilities.

The Spanish government and Catalan unionist parties reject a dual-presidency

The leader of the “Catalan Socialist Party,” Miquel Iceta, called on the Catalan pro-independence parties to stop “posturing” and said that the new Catalan government shouldn’t be formed by politicians who have pending judicial causes.

Ines Arrimadas (C’s) said, “I hope that JxCat and ERC officials are brave enough to tell Puigdemont that he won’t be president again.”

Albiol (PP) said, “I think it is a joke, this is more typical of a video game or virtual reality. In a serious scenario, it would be impossible to even consider this possibility, but we are in the country of fantasies.”

 

Over a Million Protesters March in Barcelona to Call for the Release of Catalan Political Prisoners

On Saturday, over a million Catalans marched in Barcelona to call for the release of the Catalan political prisoners recently imprisoned by Spain. The demonstration was given the name of “National Day for Liberty,” aiming for the same level of attendance and international impact as the yearly celebrations for Catalonia’s September 11th National Day. The demonstration filled more than three kilometers (almost 2 miles) of one of the Catalan capital’s main thoroughfares. Almost a thousand buses loaded with independentists from across the country headed to the protest in Barcelona.

At the front of the demonstration, a banner held by family members of the Catalan political prisoners and the organizers read, “Freedom for political prisoners, we are the Republic.” Attendance exceeded the expectations of the organizers, which delayed the beginning of the protest by an hour. The march lasted for 3 hours before arriving at the intersection with Avenida Icària, where a stage had been set up for speeches. That was where members of the families of the Catalan political prisoners climbed onto the stage and, one by one, read aloud letters written by the Catalan leaders in prison. The letters read:

Minister Joaquim Forn said, “Now it isn’t the time for differences,” but the moment for unity. Peace, democracy, and freedom are the values which give strength to the people of Catalonia,” he added. Ministers Meritxell Borràs and Dolors Bassa, in a joint letter, gave their thanks for the “hundreds” of letters received daily at their prison, Alcalá-Meco: “our physical distance doesn’t prevent us from feeling you near.” Minister Josep Rull said, “They’re wrong if they believe that they can imprison the will of the people”. He argued that “we’re the legitimate government because the Catalans decided so through a powerful tool: the ballot box”.

For his part, Minister Carles Mundó said, “People can be imprisoned, but nobody can imprison ideas.” “Political problems can never be solved in the court of the justice system,” he added. The Foreign Minister, Raül Romeva addressed the people, asking them “to keep their hand outstretched and the will to dialogue, without falling to provocations.” Government spokesperson Jordi Turull said, “Our bodies are in prison, but our hearts and our commitment are with you” He also called for unity: “It’s with unity that we’ve made great strides”.

Vice-president Oriol Junqueras denounced the “complicity of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) with the Spanish government in the imprisonments of democratically elected leaders like himself and their explicit support for Spain’s intervention in Catalonia’s government, which has removed any type of self-rule in Catalonia and has also installed the Spanish vice-president Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría as the Catalan president until the next elections are held.” He said that he and the other imprisoned ministers are the “scapegoats” of the Spanish state to frighten the independence movement.

The leaders of the two major Catalan grassroots organizations, Jordi Cuixart (ANC) and Jordi Sànchez (Òmnium), who were also imprisoned, sent messages to be read out by their family members to the million plus protesters gathered at Saturday’s demonstration.

Jordi Cuixart said, “great obstacles are for great spirits,” whilst Jordi Sànchez called on the Catalans to vote on the December 21st Catalan general elections. “Our strength is our unity, let nobody doubt that we will win.” The rally ended with messages sent by President Puigdemont and the members of his cabinet from Brussels.

 

Spain Jails 8 Democratically Elected Members of Catalonia’s Government for Peacefully Defending their Ideas

On Thursday, a judge from Spain’s National Court, Carmen Lamela, sent 8 members of the Catalan government to jail for rebellion, sedition, and misuse of public funds without any evidence. As expected, the attorney general had requested their immediate imprisonment without bail and the judge approved.

Carmen Lamela is the same judge who had already sent to prison the civil rights leaders, Cuixart and Sànchez, two weeks ago, for sedition.

In her order, Judge Lamela said that the imprisonment, pending trial of the 8 Catalan leaders was “appropriate, reasonable and proportional.” She based her decision on their flight risk, taking into account the “spending power of the accused which would allow them to abandon the territory”. She also mentioned that other ministers and Catalonia’s President Puigdemont had already abandoned the country to prevent a trial in Spain.

In fact, she describes the government of Catalonia as “an organized group of people, with the support of sovereigntist associations with the power and the ability to help them in their possible flight from justice”. Lamela also alleges there is a “high risk of reoffending and a high probability that the accused might alter or destroy evidence.”

In the meantime, Catalan President Puigdemont and four members of his government remain in Belgium. They say that they do not want to escape Spanish justice, but they repudiate that they would have a fair trial if they were to return to Spain. For that reason, their intention is to stay in Brussels until there are at minimum guarantees of a fair-trial or until Belgium extradites them.

Numerous lawyers and experts, including those who wrote the crimes of rebellion and sedition, said that none of the government officials could be accused of such crimes because there has not been any violence. Sedition and rebellion charges imply an insurrection that involves taking up arms in order to take control of a territory. The Catalan government has always called on the people to hold peaceful demonstrations. In seven years of mass protests, not a single incident has ever been registered.

Thousands of intellectuals from across the world have denounced the extreme politicization of the Spanish judicial system in which many judges are directly appointed by the political forces that win the elections, making it impossible to guarantee either neutrality or fair trials.