Chris Bambery – There is No Democracy Without Citizen Participation

This week Spain’s show trial against twelve Catalonian leaders of its independence movement concluded. BRAVE NEW EUROPE is posting two articles on the topic today; this report of the week’s proceedings and an analysis of the whole proceedings (here).

Chris Bambery is author and broadcaster. Co-author (with George Kerevan) of Catalonia Reborn: How Catalonia Took on the Corrupt Spanish State and the Legacy of Franco (Luath Press, June 2018)

És probable que no hi hagi cap mitjà de comunicació fora de Catalunya o Espanya que hagi publicat tants articles i enllaços relacionats amb la causa de l’autodeterminació del poble català com BRAVE NEW EUROPE. Desenes de milers de persones els han llegit, no només a Europa, sinó arreu del món. Això ho fem perquè un dels objectius de BRAVE NEW EUROPE és donar una veu internacional a aquells que són ignorats o difamats pels mitjans de comunicació estatals i corporatius. Això es finança principalment per particulars que donen suport als objectius i valors de la nostra pàgina web. Et demanem que recolzis aquest esperit de solidaritat perquè siguem capaços d’oferir el mateix suport a altres moviments, ja sigui la independència d’Escòcia, els Gilets Jaunes, la crisi climàtica o la revocació del neoliberalisme. Com molt bé han entès els catalans, sense solidaritat no anem enlloc. Donate here

The trial of the 12 Catalan civic and political leaders charged with rebellion and sedition in relation to the 1 October 2017 independence referendum concluded on Wednesday. The Spanish Supreme Court heard 422 witnesses over four months. The verdict will be delivered in September or October.

The lawyer representing Jordi Cuixart, Marina Roig, asked the court to heed the request of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to ‘immediately’ release the nine accused held in preventative detention, in two cases since October 2017, and cited the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which upholds the right of ‘peaceful resistance’ in reference to the protests against the actions of Spanish police immediately prior to the vote and on the day itself in physically stop voting.She also pointed out that Spain’s Constitution upholds the right to freedom of assembly, stating:

‘There is no democracy without democracy, and there is no democracy without citizen participation.’

Roig insisted that ‘the defence of Spain’s unity cannot sacrifice fundamental human rights recognised around the world,’ and warned against ‘criminalising’ public protest, calling it a ‘mistake’ and warning of the serious consequences entailed for civil liberties in Spain.

Turning to the accusation that Jordi Cuixart incited violence she stated that he always insisted on any gathering of people maintaining a peaceful, civic, serene, and calm nature.’

Olga Arderiu the lawyer for the former speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell, told the Court that Forcadell was being tried‘for who she is, and not for what she did’ in the independence bid.’

She pointed out that the Prosecution in their closing statements had stressed Forcadell’s role as President of the pro-independence Catalan National Assembly (ANC), a mass membership civil organisation, even though she gave up that post in 2015, two years before the events in 2017 in relation ro which she is charged.

Forcadell faces a prison sentence of 17 years for rebellion because she allowed a debate and vote on launching the referendum (something a majority of MPs supported) yet other former members of the former Catalan Parliament Bureau involved in that decision are being prosecuted in a separate case for disobedience, which if they are found guilty does not require a jail sentence.

According to Arderiu the prosecutor had cited several ‘false’ facts isuch as ‘invented’ tweets, meetings, and events that Forcadell was supposed to have taken part in. She also accused Spain’s Constitutional Court, which had ruled the independence referendum illegal, as being ‘biased,’ stating:

‘Spain’s Constitutional Court started criminalising the Catalan parliament bureau when there was a majority of MPs that could implement independence.’

In her conclusion Arderiu requested that Forcadell be set free and pointed to a manifesto demanding her freedom signed by 614 MPs from 49 parliaments globally.

The lawyer for former minister Dolors Basso, Mariano Bergés told the court:

‘Calling for the referendum was not a call to violence. They intended to achieve independence by voting and through dialogue,’ said lawyer M. ‘What happened in September 2017 was not violence. The pro-independence demonstrations were always peaceful.’

At the conclusion of the defence lawyer’s case each of the accused was given 15 minutes to address the Court.

The former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras, faces 25 years in jail and was accused by the Prosecution of being the master mind of a ‘violent coup d’etat,’ he argued that, ‘Talking and listening is the basis of any agreement.,’ adding:
“I sincerely believe that the best for everybody – for Catalonia, Spain, Europe and all – is to return this question to the terrain of politics.”

The former Catalan Minister of Foreign Affairs, issued an international appeal to ‘all democrats’ to create a society ‘where there are no political trials’ adding:

‘Today it is us, tomorrow it could be anyone,’ he warned, before attacking the prosecution for ‘bias’ and ‘distortion’ of reality during the trial.

He told the court that he had always stood up for the right to non-violent self-determination, rather than the alleged violence that is being used to justify the accusations of rebellion.

Romeva argued that the prosecution was seeking to ‘punish an ideology’.

Former Catalan Interior Minister, Joaquim Forn, told the Court that the trial was a ‘punishment for the political challenge that the referendum posed’ and the result of ‘political failure’.

He stated his firm belief that the Catalan question can ‘only ever be resolved through dialogue,’ pointing out that the independence referendum ‘had the support of the majority in parliament and in society,’ and that in his position as the Minister responsible for public order that he ‘may have made mistakes but never worked to compromise the safety of citizens.’

For stated that ‘at no time did we hide our intention to hold the referendum’, and that he faced a long jail sentence for his political ideas and ideology.

The former Minister for the Catalan President’s Office and spokesperson for the Government in 2017, Jordi Turull,

who was recently elected to the Spanish Parliament, Jordi Turull, responded to the prosecution claim that they had manipulated 2 million Catalan voter by stating it was “an insult to Catalan society… Catalans are not sheep.”

He forcibly told the Court: ‘Decapitating us will not decapitate the independence movement or the desire for independence and self-determination in Catalonia,’ he said.

In concluding he stated ‘I am pro-independence and I will not hide that’ adding ‘dialogue must always be the path’.

Next Josep Rull, the former Catalan Territory and Sustainability Minister, stated that Catalan independence was inevitable and in a future Catalan Republic ’it would be impossible for anyone to be put in prison simply for standing up for what they believe in…

‘Self-determination is simple and transcendental. There will always be more people following us. There are not enough prisons to lock up our desire for freedom.’

Recently elected to the parish Parliament, Rull said he was accused of rebellion ‘basically because I haven’t given up my political activity’.

Jordi Sànchez, was in 2017 President of the ANC, and addressed the fact he has been in jail awaiting trial since October 2017 calling it the ‘abuse of preventative imprisonment.’

Sànchez concluded by stating:

This is an enormous injustice, not only for me and for the other pro-independence prisoners but in general around Spain,’ warning the Judges to ‘not aggravate’ the political problem of Catalonia that the Spanish Government had left them to handle stating ‘a ballot box can never be the threat to democracy’ and ‘in Catalonia, there will be ballot boxes and we will vote’ in an agreed upon referendum.

Car-me Forcadell said that she was being tried on the basis of her ‘political career and not the facts,’ and that she faced ‘false testimony without any evidence’, concluding that the 4 months of the trial ‘have been worthless’.

Former Catalan Work, Social Affairs and Families Minister Dolors Bassa, warned that ‘generations to come will depend on this verdict, which has the potential to provide a solution;’ and that ‘the will of 80% of the people [to hold a referendum] could not be ignored.’ Arguing that it would have been disobedience to fail to implement the manifesto the then Catalan Government had been elected on.

Bassa stated:‘I deny the events attributed to me. I am innocent… The coming generations depend on your sentence. Your sentence will not only be about my freedom, but that of a lot of generations. It may be the beginning of a solution for a lot of people.’

Jordi Cuixart is President of Òmnium Cultural founded under the Franco Dictatorship to defend Catalan culture language. Public use of that was illegal. He forcibly defended the international rightto protest for self-determination, saying that would stand whatever the outcome of the trial:

If police violence could not stop thousands of people from voting in the referendum, does anyone believe that a sentence will cause Catalans to stop fighting for their rights?’

He told the Court that he had always followed ‘the voice of my conscience’ in ‘my most public life.’

Refusing to repent for his actions he said ‘he would do it all again ‘because it is what I had to do’.

Cuixart told the Court that‘this is a political trial’. Turning to his appeal to Catalan citizens to take to the streets in the autumn of 2017 and to remain there to protest Spanish Police violence he explained, ‘we were limited to all an ordinary citizen can do: protest.’

In his concluding statement, Cuixart said that, ‘the quality of Spanish democracy will depend on the outcome of this trial,’ defended “civil disobedience” because citizens of Cataloniwanted to exercise fundamental rights.

So now we wait until the autumn for the verdict. I and many others believe that is a foregone conclusion. The accused were right that this looked and felt like a show trial.

When and if the 12 are found guilty it will become an issue for the European Court of Human Rights and for politicians and citizens across Europe.

They must question why politically appointed judges could judge such a case and why Spain still has crimes of rebellion and sedition on its statute book long after they were abolished in other European democracies.

It will also be an issue for the Spanish Socialist Prime Minister. Pedro Sanchez, who will have formed a government by then. The current Catalan Government has appealed to him to resume dialogue concerning independence and to release the twelve. A firm unionist he has replied with stony silence.

Those of the accused elected to the Spanish Parliament and Senate have been suspended from office. Junqueras has been elected to the European Parliament and if, and it is a very big if, he is allowed to take is seat he may be able to claim parliamentary immunity. If he is barred from doing so there must be a storm of protest that the European Parliament is doing the dirty work of the Spanish state.

The trial has been followed closely in the Basque Country. A delegation from the Basque National Party (PNV) attended the trial. Among them was Idola Elorza, who explained:
“It’s clear to us that this has been a show trial, to frighten anybody else who wants to challenge the state.”

But above all in Catalonia it has increased support for independence, as demonstrated in recent Spanish, local and European election results, and even more so attracted growing support for the 12 accused and opposition to the Spanish state, its judicial system, constitution and the monarchy, which has publicly vilified the independence movement.

Catalonia is leaving the building and the Spanish state is ushering it out of the exit.

BRAVE NEW EUROPE is probably the independent international medium that has covered the Catalan Independence movement the most. It has provided the Catalan cause a platform to communicate with the rest of Europe, as well as posted many original articles on the topic. If this is the sort of media you wish to read and support, then please donate  here.

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