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 Catalan Police Group Guilleries Warns that Spain’s Police Agents Participate in Far-Right Unionist Squads

On Friday, the Catalan police group, Guilleries, released a statement on Twitter where they reported that agents of the Spanish police Civil Guard had participated in a unionist far-right group meeting that had acted across Girona’s region (Catalonia) over the last few months. 

On Tuesday night, the Catalan police were alerted by an unnamed local source neighborhood of a far-right group meeting in a bar in Figueres (Girona) that was allegedly preparing to remove Independence symbology and yellow ribbons from numerous towns across the region of Girona.

When the Mossos arrived, they observed that two men from the group left the bar and got in a black color car. That’s when Catalan police followed and intercepted them. The surprise was when the two men in the car identified themselves as agents of the Spanish police Civil Guard.

According to the Mossos, these two agents were “nervous and cooperated very little.” They refused to give any explanation about why they were participating in a far-right group meeting. In this regard matter, the Catalan police demand that the Spanish Ministry for Home Affairs clarify what tasks are being carried out by the hundreds of Spanish police agents deployed across Catalonia that are not part of the ordinary staff. “It would be unacceptable that public resources are being spent to integrate police officers into squads aimed at provoking civil strife.” The Guilleries group of Mossos warns of the presence of Civil Guards infiltrated in extremist unionist squads.

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The Spanish Supreme Court Violates Fundamental Rights of the Catalan Leaders who will Be Tried over Last Year’s Independence Referendum

On Thursday, the Spanish Supreme Court officially finished the inquiry of the referendum case and opened the phase of the trial against 18 Catalan leaders, including the political prisoners who have already spent over a year unfairly imprisoned. The Court, which has accepted Judge Llarena’s findings, will try the Catalan leaders for rebellion, misuse of public funds, and disobedience. The prosecutor’s office and the private prosecutor VOX party have had five calendar days since last Thursday to announce the proposed sentences after which the defense will have five additional days to present arguments calling for the acquittal of the Catalan leaders. This process is expected to end between November 7th and 15th. 

The trial is expected to begin in January with two daily sessions, morning and afternoon, during which the political prisoners will be transferred to Madrid prisons. This will last between two and three months and the defense is seeking to televise it in order to provide international coverage of a trial they believe to be a farce. The rapidity of the Supreme Court in opening the trial in such a complex case, where the defense has not had access to all the necessary documentation to prepare for it, clearly violates the fundamental rights of the Catalan political prisoners and the rest of the defendants. 

The Spanish Supreme Court has dismissed more than three hundred requests for the inclusion of evidence, documents, and testimony such as the information of the ICS on the number of people injured the Oct. 1 by the police with details of clinical diagnosis of each case, the inclusion of numerous videos from the first of October, the provision of medical experts on the injuries of agents who intervened in the October 1st referendum to know how they were done, or the declarations of Méndez de Vigo on September 22 in which he spoke of tumultuous actions anticipating the criminal complaint for sedition and rebellion against the jailed Catalan leaders Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart presented shortly after by the prosecutor of the Spanish Court.

In addition, Judge Llarena has disallowed the inclusion of evidence from other courts that have also investigated facts over the independence referendum case such as the summary of testimonies collected at Court No. 13 and No.7 in Barcelona. Llarena argues that the facts investigated by these courts “do not have any procedural connection” with the matters being considered by the Supreme Court, and that a “documentary avalanche would only delay the beginning of the trial sessions.” Additionally, the defense for the prisoners has also complained about the difficulty of accessing the documentation included in the summary as well as the malfunctioning of the so-called “virtual cloud” from which they couldn’t consult the full documentation of the summary. 

The Supreme Court’s dismissal of evidence and important documentation to the case, arguing that the trial would then be extended, clearly violates the human rights of all the prisoners and defendants and shows a lack of guarantees in what is expected to be a trial for political motivations. Thus, it appears that the prison sentences against the Catalan political prisoners have already been written before the trial has even started and that the trial itself will be a mere performance. In the meantime, this is also expected to be an important opportunity for pro-independence leaders to demonstrate the nonexistence of the crimes of rebellion, misuse of public funds, and disobedience that they are being accused of, as well as the constant violations of human rights perpetrated by the Spanish State against them. 

The eagerness of the Spanish State to destroy the pro-independence movement is likely to fail and backfire on them. This unfair trial is expected to cause widespread indignation through Catalan society, and those people will likely take to the streets in mass numbers in an attempt to push the Catalan government to implement the republic and call for its peaceful defense. This could hit or even collapse the Spanish and EU economies, forcing the EU to recognize Catalonia as a new State or forcing the negotiation of an agreed self-determination referendum.

The Spanish Government and Podemos Launch a Coordinated Blackmail Campaign against Independentists in order to Approve the 2019 Spanish State General Budget

Over the last few weeks, the Spanish “socialist” government and the “left-wing” party Podemos have launched a coordinated blackmail campaign against the Catalan government and pro-independence parties in order to approve the 2019 Spanish General State Budget. With the help of their regional brands, both the Catalan “Socialist” Party (PSC) and Catalunya en Comú Podem (CeC) are openly demanding independentism to support the Spanish Budget for nothing in exchange. According to them, the approval of the budget is necessary for the dignity and the welfare of the people. Consequently, it would also allow the government to increase the minimum wage from €736 to €900 a month. This would significantly improve the quality of life of Spaniards and Catalans. 

While it is true that an increase in the minimum wage would benefit both the Spaniards and the Catalans, it doesn’t require the approval of the budget. In fact, previous increases in the minimum wage have been done in such a manner. Not even the Spanish parliament has to vote. Article 27 of the Worker’s Statute gives the government the power to set the minimum annual wage. This contradicts the despicable and miserable blackmail campaign launched by the current Spanish government and Podemos who, for electoral reasons, are demanding the approval of the budget by the pro-independence parties ERC and PDeCAT, linking it with an increase of the minimum wage and warning independentists that they will bear responsibility for a stagnation of the minimum wage if the budget is not approved.

Regardless of this despicable blackmail campaign, pro-independence parties have shown their willingness to support the budget if the Spanish government takes clear steps to solve the Catalan conflict on self-determination and release the Catalan political prisoners. More precisely, ERC and PDeCAT are demanding the Spanish government to order the Prosecutor’s Office to withdraw all the charges against the Catalan political prisoners. This is a comprehensible pre-condition to any negotiation of any kind given that the Catalan political prisoners didn’t commit any crime, and much less, rebellion or sedition as the judiciary from numerous European countries, including Germany, have already ruled. This measure, which wouldn’t affect the separation of powers of the Spanish State would really show a willingness from the Spanish government to dejudicialize and solve the ongoing political conflict between Catalonia and Spain.

Whether the Spanish government will attempt to remove the Catalan conflict from the judicial process remains to be seen. However, the current blackmail campaign carried out by the Spanish government, Podemos, Catalunya en Comú Podem (CeC), and the Catalan “Socialist” Party (PSC) against independentists is unacceptable, despicable, and miserable. They are behaving exactly like the PP did during the previous legislature and are whitewashing the repression against the Catalans. Perhaps they should ask themselves how they would react if their leaders were unjustly imprisoned for over a year, and with each of them facing up to 30 years in prison. Surely, they wouldn’t negotiate the Spanish State General Budget until their leaders are released. They would also likely react stronger than Catalan pro-independence parties have done so far. In addition, the Spanish government can’t pretend that the pro-independence parties would approve the budget without conditions. Where has this been seen before? In which country? All pacts have conditions in any democratic country.

This despicable attitude from the Spanish government, Podemos and their regional brands the PSC and CeC is likely to backfire on them in upcoming local, possibly, general elections in Catalonia and Spain. Their bases, who oppose the repugnant attitude from their leaders towards independentism, are likely to make them lose social support, municipalities, regional governments, and the presidency. This is, at the same time, a big opportunity for independentists to attract them to their cause.

Independentists must acknowledge facts: social support for independence has grown most with unilateralism, clarity, and honesty. In my opinion, it is time for independentists to say enough is enough. Time to reject the Spanish budget, to bring down the Spanish government, to unite again, and prepare for the unilateral implementation of the republic in the upcoming months. In order to achieve the final victory, pro-independence parties must be more honest and clear to the Catalans than ever in saying what is already obvious. The Spanish government will never negotiate an agreed self-determination referendum unless it’s forced to do so. Additionally, the only possible way to force it is via unilateralism and mass permanent mobilizations across Catalonia. Surely, it won’t be an easy path, but with unity and determination, no one will be able to stop the Catalans. At least they will have a chance to get the victory and their desired republic.

The Catalan Government’s Plan for this Legislature

The Catalan government has elaborated a plan for “four years,” not only for a few months as the Spanish media have been speculating recently. 

With this legislation, the government will focus on the freeing of political prisoners, the return of exiles, the reinstatement of Puigdemont as President of Catalonia, and the negotiation of an agreement for a self-determination referendum with Spain without ruling out unilateralism as a way to implement the Republic if the negotiations fail.

 The government is also expected to launch a Civic, Social, and Constituent forum before October 15th, which will set the foundation for the Constitution of the future Catalan Republic. This process is expected to end with a Constitutional referendum by the end of the legislature.

In addition, President Torra has announced that his administration will implement 14 social laws suspended by the Spanish Constitutional Court, even if the negotiations with the State fail. These laws would allow the government to significantly improve the quality of life for the immense majority of Catalans.

The government’s plan also includes the implementation of a total of 1,000 measures such as a primary health care plan that also identifies social problems in walk-in clinics, the transformation of culture into a basic social right, a national plan to help the nearly half a million disabled people in Catalonia, a quality work market, gender policies, protecting teachers, a national pact on the knowledge economy, and taking engineering and technological paths.

The government will also put special emphasis on the march for civic and social rights announced by Torra at a National Conference on September 4th.

“We must refrain from making a nostalgic or sentimental look,” he said. It must be a day by day protest in which we peacefully confront the state to exercise our right of self-determination,” he added. For him, the referendum was “the founding moment of the Catalan Republic.”

In regard to the public diplomacy body (Dipoclat) which was dismantled by the previous Spanish administration, the Catalan government will continue consolidating and expanding it worldwide. The Government is currently reactivating foreign delegations. Last week, for example, the Catalan Minister for Foreign Affairs Maragall reopened the Catalan delegation in Berlin (Germany) despite the fact that the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell announced a contentious-administrative appeal to halt the reopening of the offices.

President Torra is expected to give more details about his government’s plan during the general policy debate set for the second and third of October.