The Appalling Living Conditions of the Catalan Political Prisoners Limits their Right to Defense in the Ongoing Independence Trial

After nearly a month of the Independence Trial of the Catalan political prisoners, the bias in favor of the accusation shown by the court and the extreme living conditions of the prisoners is worrying the international community and the prisoners’ families, who believe their right to a proper defense has been violated. 

The longest session so far was when Josep Rull, Dolors Bassa, Meritxell Borràs, and Carles Mundó declared before the Spanish Supreme Court. It began at 10am and ended at 9.30pm, a long marathon of a session that seriously affected the prisoners, who ended it exhausted, which could violate their right to a defense.

The prisoners have a strict schedule; they are woken up at 6am by prison officials. On their days of trial, they are directly transferred by Spanish Civil Guard officers to the Spanish Supreme Court – without shower or breakfast time – in a trip that usually takes 45 minutes. Then the Spanish National police take custody of them, and the prisoners are sent to a room where they have to wait for over 30 minutes until the trial session begins. After the day-long trial session, they are sent back to their respective prisons in Madrid.

According to the families of the Catalan political prisoners and their lawyers, the worst part is the return to prison. When they get back their dinner is already cold, and they don’t have the means of warming it. After a quick dinner, they go straight to bed because it is already late and the next day they will have to wake up at six and face another long trial session, which tends to end in the evening.

This exhausting rhythm after nearly a month of trial is severely affecting the political prisoners, who on occasions only get 4 four hours sleep per night. In addition, they don’t have the possibility to prepare their defense with their lawyers after each session because they are directly transferred to prison, have dinner, go to their cells and prepare for the next day, get some sleep, and then face a new trial session.

At weekends however, they do have the possibility of meeting with their lawyers and receiving some visits. On some occasions, their families can also have communication with them at the Supreme Court for 10 minutes at the end of the session. 

Last week Jordi Cuixart’s defense team filed a formal protest before the court to be told in advance the complete calendar of sessions, to be able to prepare for the interrogations. In addition, the defense highlighted that the isolation of the prisoners also limits their freedom of communication with their clients and impedes their ability to prepare for the trial properly.

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List of Important Witnesses Independence Trial Upcoming Weeks

This is a list of some of the most important witnesses that will testify in the independence trial in the upcoming weeks:

Politicians

– Roger Torrent (ERC), President of the Catalan Parliament.

– Pere Aragonés (ERC), Catalan vice-president. 

– Jordi Puigneró (JxCat), Catalan digital policy minister. During the referendum, he was junior telecommunications minister. 

– José María Espejo (C’s), second deputy speaker of the Catalan Parliament.

-David Pérez (PSC), member of the Parliament’s executive board.  

– Josep Maria Jové (ERC), former second-in-command at the economy ministry, considered the organizer of the referendum.

– Xavier Trías (PDeCAT), Former Mayor of Barcelona.

– David Fernández (CUP), former Catalan MP.

– Luís Llach, former Catalan MP.

– Neus Lloveras, former president of the Associació de Municipis per la Independència (Association of Municipalities for Independence).

– Antonio Bayona, former head Parliament lawyer.

– Carles Viver, former Constitutional Court magistrate, considered to be the “legal architect” of the independence process.

Police

– Diego Pérez de los Cobos, a colonel in Spain’s Civil Guard. He was the coordinator of the large Spanish security operation mounted in response to the possibility of the 1st October 2017 referendum.

– Josep Lluis Trapero, former chief of Catalonia’s Mossos d’Esquadra police.

– Pere Soler, former director of the Mossos. Accused of rebellion alongside Trapero. 

– Albert Battle, former director of the Mossos. He resigned two months before the referendum and was replaced by Soler.

– Teresa Laplana, Mossos superintendent. She is accused of sedition in the National Audience case. 

– Ferrán López, Mossos police commissioner. He substituted Trapero when he was removed from his post.

– Sebastián Trapote, chief of the Spanish National Police in Catalonia.

Media, associations, and citizens

– Joan Vallvé, vice-president of Òmnium Cultural, the Catalan cultural association.

– Núria Llorach, vice-president and acting president of the Catalan public broadcasting corporation, CCMA.

– Javier Pacheco and Camil Ros, secretaries in Catalunya of two of the major trade unions, CCOO and UGT respectively.

– José María Álvarez, secretary general of the UGT trade union.

– Around a hundred voters who took part in the referendum.

International

– MEP Ana Gomes

– MEP Ivo Vagl.

– Manon Masse, member of the Quebec parliament for the social-democratic Québec solidaire, who acted as an international observer for the referendum.

– Felix Von Gründberg, German MP.

– Andrej Hunko, German MP.

– Lars Aslan Rasmussen, Danish MP.

– Helena Catt, member of the International Election Expert Research Team. Also cited was her colleague, former Dutch prime minister Wim Kok, who died late last year.

– Paul Sinning, director of the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies.

 

 

International Trial Watch Warns of Irregularities in the Independence Trial

International Trial Watch, an organization which is monitoring the trial against the Catalan political prisoners over the 2017 referendum, warned on Monday that the Spanish Supreme Court hadn’t admitted “crucial” evidence about the Catalan leaders which would clearly undermine the defendant’s rights to a proper legal defense.

In a press release via Twitter, International Trial Watch has explained that the outcome of the past week will be presented by 6 observers: William Mozdzierz, member of the American Bar Association; Dominique Nogueres, president of the French League of Human Rights; Alexandre Faro, advocate and member of the International Federation of Human Rights; Frédéric Ureel, advocate and member of European Democracy Advocates; Fabio Marcelli, lawyer of the European Association Lawyers for Democracy & World Human Rights; and Javier Pérez Royo, professor of Constitutional Law of the University of Seville.

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➡ The accusations do not take into account that the actions of the defendants may be covered by fundamental rights. If so, it would not be possible at the same time that the accused had committed a crime.

The observers have remarked that the accusations “do not have in mind that the acts of the accusers could have violated their fundamental rights.” “If that were the case, it would not be possible at the same time that the accused had committed any crime,” they added.

The platform also warned that it would examine”procedural anomalies” related to the court not suspending the trial to incorporate documentation that the defenders do not dispose of and if the accusation may have “violated procedures.”

International Trial Watch has verified that the Supreme Court has not reserved a room for the observers, which has led “hours of queues” to the portal to access the room. In addition, they have remembered that on the first day of trial, far-right Vox sympathizers “organized the queue and distributed numbers of entry;” days later the police did it.

The observers have estimated that approximately 40 people can enter as public. For this reason, International Trial Watch has reiterated to the court the need to reserve places in the room for observers. 

 

Catalan Trade Union Intersindical-CSC Calls for General Strike on February 7

The Catalan trade union Intersindical-CSC calls for a general strike in Catalonia on February 7. The strike, which will apply to all workplaces in the country, both public and private, will be held a few days before the trial against the Catalan political prisoners begins.

Although the real motive for the strike is to protest against the trial of the Catalan political prisoners, officially the Intersindical-CSC has announced it will demand the complete repeal of the 2012 labor reforms, a minimum Catalan wage of 1,200 euros per month, the reinstatement of the social laws that were approved by Parliament  but  stopped by the Constitutional Court, full gender equality in work centers, and progress towards a model of improved quality of public functions, along with decent working conditions, amongst other issues. The Intersindical-CSC thereby reaffirms the reasons why it called a two-hour strike on December 21 and now calls for a second round of the action.

Sergi Perelló, spokesman for the Intersyndical-CSC: “The actions of the Spanish State, including its judiciary, may affect the lives of the people of this country, both for their living conditions and for the deprivation of freedom, but the strike the strike is motivated by the desire for better jobs.”

The pro-independence organizations and political parties National Catalan Assembly (ANC), Ómnium Cultural, CUP, JxCat, ERC, Demòcrates, USTEC, Sindicat d’Estudiants dels Països Catalans (SEPC), and other pro-independence organizations support the strike. On the other hand, Catalunya en Comú Podem (CeC) has not yet taken a position on the strike. It will decide in the next few days whether or not to support it.

President Torra calls for permanent mobilization: “It seems perfect to me that there are organizations that believe that this day should be a strike. I’m also insisting, as you know, from the September conference that I did at the National Theater, in need of a march for the civil, social and national rights of this country, and of permanent mobilization. Therefore, more than ever, I think that now, before this trial, and attending to what Jordi Cuixart always tells us, it is not only the ‘I accuse,’ but the ‘I mobilize myself’.”

A Report by Rights International Spain (RIS) and Other International Organizations on Human Rights Violations in Spain

Rights International Spain (RIS), an independent non-governmental organization, formed by experts in international law and dedicated to the promotion and defense of civil rights and liberties, highlights in one of its documents the condemnation of Spain by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). In 2018 there were eight condemnations, for violations of rights similar to those committed in previous years. Other experts from UN agencies and the Council of Europe have also expressed their concerns about the repression suffered by the Catalan independence movement.

Condemnations

In 2018, the ECHR condemned Spain eight times for violations of the European Convention on Human Rights. The condemnations are about repeated violations of freedom of expression, the prohibition of torture, the right to a fair trial and an independent and impartial tribunal, and respect for family and private life.

In addition, the Council of Europe Anti-Corruption Group (GRECO) evaluated last January the degree of compliance by Spain with the recommendations issued after previous evaluations to prevent and combat the corruption of parliamentarians, judges, and prosecutors. GRECO observed that Spain had not applied or addressed any of the eleven recommendations contained in the last report, issued in 2014.

Earlier this year, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe addressed the Spanish Congress and Senate urging them to modify the current Citizen Security Law to eliminate all disproportionate interference in the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. The Commissioner expressed concern about the broad and inaccurate wording of the law, which gives a broad margin of interpretation to the police and, as a result, allows for arbitrary. This law resulted in sanctions with unclear foundations against journalists filming police officers or against people in peaceful demonstrations and disproportionate limitations of fundamental rights protected by the European Convention.

In December 2018, the Council of Europe mentioned Spain as a problematic example of the application of anti-terrorism legislation. The reason for this was vague and inappropriately widespread terms of the crimes concerning terrorism. Specifically problematic is Article 578 of the Criminal Code, which has led to disproportionate restrictions on freedom of expression.

Torture

The Sub-Committee for the Prevention of Torture recommended the creation of a new entity to prevent torture in Spain. Currently, such measures are handled by an Ombudsman’s office. In addition, other UN human rights experts urged Spain to suspend the extradition of Chinese and Taiwanese people to mainland China, as they risk torture and execution. Spain is a signatory of the international commitment to refrain from expelling, returning or extraditing persons to any State if there are reasons to believe that they may be subjected to torture or the death penalty.

Catalonia Poll: Over 80% of Catalans Are in Favor of a Mutually Agreed Self-determination Referendum

Last week, Spanish PM Sánchez affirmed that most Catalans don’t support the independence of Catalonia and urged the Catalan government to present him a proposal supported by at least 75% of Catalans. The last poll carried out by the Ara newspaper shows that 80% of Catalans are in favor of a mutually agreed self-determination referendum, a proposal that Sánchez should accept in order to keep his words and fulfill his often hollow promises. 

Ara Newspaper Poll

80.4% of Catalans are in favor of an agreed self-determination referendum according to a survey published by the Ara newspaper this Sunday. By parties, the trend is the same, 71% of those who voted the “Socialist” Party (PSC) on Dec. 21 agree with a mutually agreed referendum.  In fact, the only ones who are most opposed are the PP and C’s voters, although 24% of C’s voters also show their support for a referendum.

The poll also shows that over 75% of Catalans rejects the pre-trial incarceration for the Catalan political prisoners, the accusations of rebellion, and the possible implementation of another Article 155 (direct rule) over Catalonia. Almost 8 out of 10 Catalans are against the pre-trial imprisonment, and a similar percentage are also opposed to the fact that the Catalan prisoners will be tried for rebellion. 49.8% of those interviewed who oppose independence believe that the charges are excessive, and 52.5% also believe the fact they are are in a provisional prison. In both cases, the percentage of the voters against independence is 39%. 

Over 79% of Catalans oppose a recurrence of future interventions from the Spanish government. In fact, only the voters of the PP and C’s support this idea, although in the case of C’s there are 31% who are against to what their political leaders think.

Spanish PM Sánchez

It’s clear there is a consensus in Catalonia in favor of a mutually agreed self-determination referendum to solve the ongoing crisis and against the judicialization of politics. The administration of the Spanish PM Sánchez should soon tackle the real demands of Catalan society, or the Catalans, who have shown the first signs of frustration and fury against the current situation, could soon organize themselves to unilaterally implement the Catalan Republic. And December 21st. appears to be Sanchez’s last opportunity to de-judicialize politics and propose a realistic project for Catalonia. Whether Spanish PM Sánchez will act smarter than his predecessor Rajoy is still unknown, but what appears to be certain is that his time as PM to solve the Catalan crisis is ending.

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.