Spain’s King Felipe VI Maintains his Confrontational Discourse against the Catalan Independence Movement

In his speech for the ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the Spanish Constitution at the Spanish Congress on Thursday, Spain’s King Felipe VI maintained his confrontational discourse against the Catalan independence movement — over two million Catalans — and aligned himself with the far right-wing PP, C’s, and Vox parties against modifying the Constitution. His discourse comes amid the most serious crisis of legitimacy of the Spanish monarchy in the last 40 years.

The ceremony was attended by the current Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez, his living predecessors, and the king’s parents. The Catalan independence parties ERC and PDeCAT did not attend it, arguing that the current Constitution is a “tool” to repress the Catalans. Members of the EAJ, EH Bildu, and CeC were also absent.

Felip VI’s speech was triumphalist, defining the 40 years of the Constitution as “the greatest and most successful period of contemporary Spanish history.” He also made a fierce defense of the Monarchy as “a symbol of the unity and permanence of the State.”

During the ceremony, the king called on the Spanish people several times to “preserve” and ” not to distort” the values of the Constitution, which he defined as a great pact for social harmony and reconciliation” which the rule of law is based on. Although the monarch didn’t mention the Catalan crisis directly, he argued that differences between Spaniards must be resolved through dialogue, even by going to court, and by fulfilling legal decisions. He insisted several times that this will happen with respect for the law, without any type of imposition.

Felipe also claimed that the monarchy is “indissolubly coupled with democracy and freedom.” He added that Spain, which is a “strong and fully consolidated democracy,” has experienced “very serious events” in recent years but that the Constitution “has prevailed.”

Once again, Spain’s King Felipe adopted an anti-Catalan rhetoric that will benefit supporters of independence and will bring his popularity to a historic low in Catalonia. By closing the door to modifying the Constitution in the near future, the King not only positioned himself against the will of the supporters of  Catalan independence who want to build a new republic, but also against the immense majority of Catalans: 83% who, according to recent polls, wouldn’t approve of the current Constitution if it was voted on today in a referendum.

The King’s speech shows the Catalans that there is not any possibility of the Spanish State accepting any of their demands, so it appears that the only possible way left for the Catalans to prosper and build better living conditions for the next generations is by implementing the republic.

Hard times where a repressive State – Spain – is willing to use violence to impose their ideas are coming, but with unity, courage, unilateralism, and determination, the Catalans will have a chance of achieving their long-desired republic.  

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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. >>

The World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) Demands the Immediate Release of Jailed Catalan Leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez

The largest network of NGOs against torture and inhumane treatment in the world, the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), has called for the immediate release of two jailed Catalan leaders; Òmnium Cultural’s president Jordi Cuixart and the former President of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), Jordi Sànchez.

The OMCT demands that accusations against the two jailed Catalan leaders be dropped, considering that they are unfounded. They also argue that keeping them in pre-trial jail is a restriction of their fundamental rights.

In the letter, which focuses on Jordi Cuixart, and is signed by Secretary General of the OMCT, Gerald Staberock, the organization calls for an end to the harassment against Cuixart and Sànchez and seeks to guarantee their right to a fair trial.

Another concern for the OMCT is that these two leaders of civil society will be tried in the Spanish Supreme Court. This is worrisome, especially when recalling the latest controversies about how the members of the high court are appointed, which cast doubt on the separation of legislative, executive, and judicial powers.

The OMCT believes that the political nature of the trial against the Catalan leaders is highlighted by the participation of the far right Vox party as a private prosecution.

The letter also points out that Cuixart has appealed to the courts for release on several occasions but “with no success,” and argues that to be “compatible with international standards,” pre-trial imprisonment “must only be applied as a last resort.”

The OMCT recalls that the right to freedom of assembly consecrates the freedom to meet, debate, and discuss whenever the organizers of the meeting have peaceful intentions, means, and ways. Additionally, at this point, the entity emphasizes that the term “peaceful” must be understood as a behavior “that can annoy or offend, and even prevent or hinder third-party activities.”

The OMCT already publicly condemned the “indiscriminate and excessive use of force by the police in Catalonia during last year’s independence referendum” and called for an immediate and impartial investigation.

READ the full statement here

The Spanish “Socialist” Party (PSOE) and the Popular Party (PP) to Reach an Agreement on the New Composition of the General Council of the Spanish Judicial Power (CGPJ)

The Spanish “Socialist” Party (PSOE) and the Popular Party (PP) are negotiating over the new composition of the General Council of the Spanish Judicial Power (CGPJ), the governing body of the judiciary, as well as the presidency of the Supreme Court. The new appointments to the CGPJ  are scheduled for early December. Twenty members will be appointed: twelve by magistrates and eight by political parties in the Spanish Congress with a qualified majority of three fifths. 

The PSOE needs the PP for the renewal of the GCPJ given that it requires the aforementioned super-majority of three-fifths in the Spanish Congress. The negotiations between the PP and the PSOE began early this August though no final agreement has yet been reached.

The PP has proposed Manuel Marchena, the current President of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court, to replace Carlos Lesmes at the head of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ). The name Marchena has political significance. He currently presides over the chamber that will judge the Catalan leaders and political prisoners who were involved in last year’s independence referendum. He will also be the one to announce the final sentences against them. Though not officially decided yet, the PSOE will propose someone like the Vice-President of the Constitutional Court, Encarnación Roca. However, the PSOE could end up accepting the PP’s proposal given that the deadline for proposing the members of the new CGPJ is today, and it needs the support of the PP. It’s believed that failing to reach an agreement would weaken the PSOE.

The PSOE is planning to give Unidos Podemos one of the names of the ten judges that they will nominate. Apparently, Podemos will choose Victoria Rosell. Thus Podemos appears to support this flagrant violation of the separation of powers in Spain that they once strongly criticized.

The Spanish Government won’t involve the Catalan pro-independence parties in the renewal of the Spanish judiciary, although the Catalan Government didn’t intend to participate in any case. The Catalan administration believes that the twenty members of the CGPJ should be elected by the judges, and not by parties. The renewal of the Council of the Spanish Judiciary comes on the eve of the trial against the Catalan political prisoners over last year’s independence referendum and after the scandal of the sentence of the mortgages that have buried the prestige of the high court, which makes clear the inexistent separations of powers in the Spanish State.

Given that a significant number of judges of the CGPJ, the governing body of the judges, are directly appointed by the two major political parties in the Spanish Congress, who can guarantee that the Catalan political prisoners will have a fair trial? On the contrary, it appears that the sentence against the Catalan leaders will be a political decision that is expected to be a tough one.

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.

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.