Jailed Catalan Leaders Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Turull Go On Indefinite Hunger Strike

The Catalan political prisoners Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Turull, leaders awaiting trial for last year’s referendum, announced earlier this Saturday they were starting an indefinite hunger strike to protest over their treatment by Spanish courts.

Official Declaration of Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Turull from Lledoners Prison 

<< We denounce:

the blockade of European justice that the Constitutional Court imposes upon us

Timely access to the courts without delay or unnecessary obstacles is a right that every person has. Failure to exercise this right with full guarantees and in fair conditions can lead to irreparable damages and damages to fundamental rights.

The cause investigated by the Spanish State on the Referendum of October 1, evidences a lot of affectations on our fundamental rights, including the presumption of innocence, freedom, political rights and the rule of law, a judicial process with all due guarantees. The violations of the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are quite prominent in many of the resolutions that both the Supreme Court and the National Court have issued against us since October 16, 2017, when the first pre-trial detention orders were issued.

Our determination to have a fair, lawful trial is stronger than ever. We have not ceased to appeal all those violations of our rights that the Spanish courts have committed. But it is the international courts, and in particular the European Court of Human Rights, where today we deposit the trust to get justice.

The Constitutional Court (CC), however, blocks our access to European justice. The action of the CC is as simple as blatant: to accept 100% of our appeals for constitutional protection of fundamental rights, to be processed later on in order not to resolve any of them.

According to official data of the CC, the accepted number of appeals ranged between 1% and 1.5% of the total number of those presented. In our case, they are filed 100%, then forgotten in a drawer. The Spanish legislation (Criminal Procedure Act) and the doctrine of the same Constitutional Court, stipulate that the appeals against pretrial detention orders must enjoy preferential processing and must be resolved within a maximum period of 30 days. The first appeal for constitutional protection of our fundamental rights, accepted by the Constitutional Court against the pre-trial detention order decreed by the National Court, was filed on November 22, 2017, more than 365 days ago. An unjustified delay, and more so if we keep in mind the records of quick resolutions resolved by the Constitutional Court in several occasions, where it has met even on a weekend and only 24 hours after its intervention has been requested.

We ask for an impartial and diligent Constitutional Court, which should not impede the exercise of our rights. We denounce the blockade that the Spanish Constitutional Court de facto imposes upon us to access the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). We reaffirm our determination, in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights, to fully exercise our defense rights. We will never give up on our right to a fair trial.

We do not ask the Constitutional Court for any treatment of favor. But we do not passively accept any discrimination or unwarranted procrastination. The question is not even that the Court would rule in our favor, but simply that the appeals presented would be unblocked (by being not admitted or by simply being rejected). Only in this way, will the road to access Euro- pean justice be opened to us. We are well aware that the longer it takes for us to access the European Court of Human Rights, regaining our freedom will take longer as well.

We denounce the blockade of European justice imposed on us by the Constitutional Court. And we do so with all the strength and dignity of a line of political action strongly rooted in non- violence. Thus, we will resort to one of the few legitimate forms of protest that being imprisoned allows us; by conducting a hunger strike.

We will not do it against anyone, but in favor of creating awareness and fostering action to prevent the acceptance of something that is not normal as normal. The irregular functioning of the Constitutional Court is of severe seriousness in a State of Law. And that must appeal to all democrats, whichever their political choices are.

We ask for the attention and support of all the democratic people of Catalonia, Spain, Europe, and the World. We invite you to preserve the civic and peaceful attitude that has made us so strong over these years. We urge the”Smile Revolution” to flourish through events that will continue to be celebrated in Catalonia in the form of concentrations, “yellow dinners”, and concerts in the coming days and weeks. And we also ask for our hunger strike not to alter the spirit or celebration that these dates, close to Christmas and New Year’s Eve, bring to the majority of us.

We are grateful, finally, for the solidarity of all women and men who feel interpellated and committed to the effective defense of rights and freedoms, personal and collective.

 Together for dignity and until freedom is reached!

 Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Turull

Prison of Lledoners, December 1, 2018. >>

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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.

The Catalan Police Identify Organized Spanish Ultra-Right-Wing Squads Operating in Catalonia

At around 2 am on Friday, the Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalan police) identified fourteen people in three vehicles, including a Spanish Civil Guard officer, in the Catalan region of the Ribera d’Ebre. The Catalan police were alerted by frightened neighbors, in what appeared to be a “paramilitary” squad formed by numerous individuals with covered faces and armed with knives and saws. They were removing yellow ribbons and other yellow symbols from the streets.

Once there, the police found cutters, hooks, saws, dark clothes, scarves, and maps with what appeared to be organized regular routes for removing yellow symbols from several Catalan towns, which demonstrates the existence of coordinated ultra-right- wing groups.

According to police sources, the material was confiscated and due diligence was undertaken in case anybody complains about the damages. The confiscated material also enabled the police to identify two more cars and their occupants in the town of Tivissa.

El Mon newspaper spoke to Jordi Jardí, the Mayor of Tivissa (one of the towns where the paramilitary squad appears to be operating regularly), who said:

This group of people removed the yellow ribbons that were located at the entrance of the municipality and the squares of the Paranova and the Portal de l’All. Jardín will not report the facts since it must be considered that they have not infringed any municipal property nor have they damaged any urban infrastructure.”

“They have not touched the yellow ribbons that are lit every night in the City Hall, and we are not thinking about removing them,” said the mayor. “Henceforth, the CDR of Tivissa and the region, which filled the squares of our town with yellow ribbons, are free to restore them,” he added. And Jardí said that the council will maintain the same attitude of “respect” toward these symbols.”

The Department of Home Affairs of the Catalan government has initiated actions against the members of the paramilitary squad for a serious infringement of Law 4/2015 of citizen security, which sanctions these actions with fines of 601 to 30,000 euros.

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Since last October, numerous citizens from various towns across Catalonia have been warning of the existence of violent para-military squads that, on occasion, enter private properties to remove banners calling for freedom for Catalan political prisoners, yellow ribbons, and other yellow elements. According to sources, they physically attack anyone who offers any kind of resistance or tries to stop their criminal acts. 

In the last few weeks, C’s and the PP have been accused of promoting and endorsing these kinds of violent paramilitary fascist squads. A few weeks ago, C’s launched a campaign to remove yellow ribbons and other symbols and “encouraged” these radicals groups to carry out more “violent” night operations across Catalonia.

Spanish Constitutional Court Blocks Puigdemont’s Investiture as President

On Saturday, the Spanish Constitutional Court ruled that Carles Puigdemont can only be sworn in as president in person and with a juridical authorization prior to appearance in court. This decision, which sets a dangerous precedent, comes after the Spanish government pressured the court to rule in its favor.

According to ex-members of the Constitutional Court and prestigious jurists, the Constitutional Court violated its own rules by adopting precautionary measures against Puigdemont and four members of his cabinet since the Court only had the power to decide whether or not to consider Rajoy’s cabinet’s appeal.

Most of the current judges which form the Spanish Constitutional Court were directly appointed by the two largest Spanish political parties, PP and PSOE, which shows the high degree of politicization in the Spanish judicial system.

The Spanish government made a surprise announcement on Tuesday that it would appeal against Puigdemont’s candidacy for president in the Constitutional Court. This came after Rajoy said there was no legal basis for such a move a few days before.

Vice-President Santamaría alleged that a fugitive couldn’t be nominated as president without previously appearing in front of a judge. She added that there was also an ongoing search and arrest warrant issued against Puigdemont.

The Spanish Council of State formed by former ministers and lawyers ruled on Thursday that Puigdemont’s candidacy for president couldn’t be suspended until there is a firm judicial sentence against him since he retains his rights as an elected MP.

A Remote Investiture and Delegation of Votes

The Constitutional Court ruled against the remote investiture of Puigdemont since the presidential candidate must be physically in the Parliament during the debate. The Court also prohibited Puigdemont and the four ministers of his cabinet, who are in exile in Belgium, to delegate their votes for the investiture session.

Warning against the Catalan Parliament Bureau

The Constitutional Court also called on the members of the Catalan Parliament’s Bureau to respect its resolution, pointing out that whoever disobeys it will face criminal charges.

Appeal to the European Court of Human Rights

A few hours after learning about the resolution of the Constitutional Court, the Catalan lawyer of Puigdemont Cuevillas said that he would probably take the Constitutional Court decision to the European Court of Human Rights. He said it was a political decision which violates his client’s rights.

Numerous representatives of JxCat said, “ We will not propose [for president] a candidate other than Puigdemont. Plan A is Puigdemont; Plan B Puigdemont.”

Puigdemont’s reaction

“Even the Constitutional Court rejected the legal fraud that the Spanish government was perpetuating. More than one person should rectify the situation and end the politics once and for all. And if they are unable to do so, they should consider stepping down and giving way,” he tweeted.

The Spanish government also reacted to the news by welcoming the fact that the judges do not allow an investiture at a distance, which Madrid brands as “fraudulent.”

The CUP party calls on Catalan parliament speaker Torrent to “disobey”

The CUP party urged the Catalan Parliament president to disobey yesterday’s Constitutional Court resolution against Puigdemont’s candidacy for president. It added that they will only be present in the investiture session if Puigdemont is the candidate. Otherwise, they will attempt to block the formation of a new government which could lead to new elections.

 

 

 

 

The PP Is Willing to Undermine the Formation of a Stable Pro-Independence Government in Catalonia

Despite the poor results obtained in the latest Catalan general elections, 4% of the votes, the PP – which is also the ruling party in Spain – appears willing to unlawfully prevent, by any means, the formation of a stable pro-independence government in Catalonia.

A PP’s spokesperson, Pablo Casado said, “Catalan unionist parties must try to form a constitutionalist government in Catalonia because, though they didn’t get an absolute majority of seats in Parliament, it is still possible.”

Casado also suggested that the Spanish government will use the current judicial situation of numerous pro-independence leaders, who were elected in the latest elections but are in prison, exile, and facing criminal charges, to attempt to undermine the formation of a Catalan pro-independence government.

Up until today, this move would affect Oriol Junqueras (ERC), Jordi Sànchez (JxCat), and Joaquim Forn (JxCat), who are in prison, as well as Carles Puigdmeont (JxCat), Clara Posantí (JxCat), Jordi Puig (ERC), Meritxell Serret (ERC), and Toni Comín (ERC) who are in exile in Belgium.

Nevertheless, even if the Spanish government prevents them from taking office, pro-independence parties would still hold a simple majority of 62 seats in Parliament against the 57 unionists. Thus, the only possibility of forming an alternative unionist government would elude them unless the PP and C’s manage to negotiate with the CeC a leftist party that adamantly opposes them. But if such a unionist coalition were to happen, it would serve to install an authoritarian government that aims to criminalize any pro-independence movements across Catalonia.

A feasible alternative to prevent such a scenario would require by the 8 pro-independence deputies, who are in exile or prison, to renounce office. But this move would likely worsen their judicial situation since this would imply that they could be judged by the Spanish National Court, which is under the control of the Spanish government. Catalan deputies have immunity, and hence, can only be judged by the Spanish Supreme Court, which has proved to be far more neutral and fair than the National one. Whatever final decision pro-independence parties make, it will be soon, as the Parliament of Catalonia will be constituted on January 17th.


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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.

Catalonia’s Decisive Week for Independence

On Tuesday, Catalan President Puigdemont “declared Catalonia’s independence,” but soon after suspended its effects in favor of dialogue with Spanish authorities. His decision came after numerous international actors suggested that mediation would only be possible if he halted independence as a sign of good faith.

Nevertheless, numerous members of parliament, who were informed about Puigdemont’s decision only 45 minutes before his intervention, expressed their disagreement and threatened to boycott his speech, as well as threatening to break the pro-independence absolute majority in Parliament. They stressed that they had agreed on a different declaration earlier in the day.

To address this alarming situation, President of Parliament Forcadell decided to suspend the plenary for 1 hour. While the disagreements remained, everyone present in the meeting finally accepted Puigdemont’s changes to the speech in order to maintain unity. Additionally, they agreed to hold a ceremony to sign an unofficial declaration of independence in another building after the plenary in order to give more solemnity to the day.

Tens of thousands of people who gathered around the parliament to celebrate the proclamation of the new Catalonian Republic ended up with mixed feelings. At first, when Puigdemont declared independence, they felt very excited, but this turned to disappointment when he suspended its legal effects without setting a deadline a few seconds later.

Most experts saw Puigdemont’s move as a wise one because it served to show the international community that Catalonia is seeking dialogue until the very end, which favours future international recognition of Catalonia as an independent country.

On Wednesday, Spanish PM Rajoy refused Puigdemont’s latest offer of dialogue and activated Article 155, which can be fully implemented a few days after Puigdemont responds to a mandatory request for information as to whether he has declared independence. He was given until Monday to respond; if it is in the affirmative, this period is extended until Thursday, with the option of altering the decision.

With Article 155, Rajoy can suspend Catalonia’s government, intervene in the education system and the police, and even call for an early election while installing technocrats from the central government to rule Catalonia for at least 3 months. In parallel, pro-independence parties and organizations may also be barred from participating in any eventual general election for at least 4 years.

Major pro-independence organizations are preparing a proportionate response to the implementation of the Article 155 and the possible arrest of Catalonia’s President and vice-president, which includes mass protests, and an indefinite general strike. The main idea would be to collapse the Spanish and European economies and eventually force an international intervention/mediation in Catalonia.

The response may be precipitated by Spain this Monday, because the leaders of the two major pro-independence organizations, Cuixart and Sanchez, have been summoned by the Spanish National Court to testify about “sedition charges” (punishable by up to 15 years in prison + a fine). According to some journalists with contacts in the Spanish government, the judges who are hearing these two cases have already made the decision to jail them in order to smash their respective organizations and thus spread fear across Catalonian society.

Against this possible outcome, Cuixart and Sanchez named their replacements on Saturday. In the meantime, pro-independence organizations and parties such as the ANC, Omnium, ERC, CUP, Democrates and several MP’s from the PDECAT have called on Puigdemont to lift the suspension of Catalonia’s declaration of independence and implement its legal effects as soon as next week. If possible before the Spanish implementation of Article 155.They believe there are no longer grounds for mediation or negotiations as equals with Spain, and that the only way to bring about international mediation/negotiations is by formally declaring independence first.

With this in mind, Puigdemont will have to make the most important decision of his life tomorrow morning. He must decide whether to go all-out to respect the will of the Catalonian people and face a prison sentence of up to 15 years or to surrender, refuse to declare independence, and thus comply with the Spanish government’s will.

Whatever Puigdemont’s decision may be in the coming hours, the worsening of the conflict between Catalonia and Spain appears to be inevitable, given that if he surrenders the independence process, millions of Catalans will then feel betrayed, resulting in the radicalization of many who would rise up against the Spanish government in order to defend the newly promised Catalonian Republic.

Perhaps the only thing that can stop this upcoming clash would be Spain’s acceptance of international mediation. Although, I must admit that I do not have much hope of that happening.