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Catalan government on prison requests: ‘shameful attack on democracy’

Spanish prosecutor's proposed jail terms for pro-independence leaders spark outrage

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02 November 2018 12:44 PM

by

ACN | Barcelona

The prison sentences Spain requested for pro-independence leaders on Friday sparked outrage among Catalan government officials, with some ministers calling the public prosecutor’s proposals "a shameful attack on democracy."   

The Catalan vice president, Pere Aragonès, said that the Spanish judiciary wanted to "condemn a whole people," in reference to all Catalans who took part in last year’s referendum and backed the declaration of independence for which politicians are being prosecuted.

In total, Spain’s attorney general requested 177 years in prison for government ministers who helped organize the referendum, as well as the parliament speaker, who allowed a vote on independence, and two leading activists.

Oriol Junqueras, Aragonès’ predecessor as vice president and leader of the Esquerra Republicana (ERC) party, faces a request for 25 years in prison.

Territory minister Damià Calvet said via Twitter that the proposed prison sentences were a "shameful attack on democracy" and "revenge."

Foreign action minister, Ernest Maragall, urged Europe to "wake up," and told pro-independence supporters to “prepare for a winter of repression and injustice."

The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, said she rejects "these baseless and disproportionate accusations. We are facing a setback in Spain’s rule of law, due to will for vengeance and not justice.” 

Meanwhile, CUP MP Vidal Aragonés criticized the proposed sentences, as well: "Spain wants to punish and make an example of those who were not the ones in charge, but the visible ones."

  • "Let's not fall for any provocations. Let's give dignified and non-violent answers. Absolution will come"

    Jordi Sànchez · JxCat president in parliament

Speaking from prison, where some have spent more than a year awaiting trial, pro-independence leaders reacted to the requested jail sentences against them.

"Does anyone think that asking for 17 years in prison will make us give up our objectives, rights and national freedoms?" asked Jordi Cuixart, the president of the Òmnium Cultural grassroots organization. "They don't know Òmnium or the Catalan society."

Jordi Sànchez, the former president of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and president of Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) in parliament, also faces a request of 17 years in jail. He accuses the prosecution of "hatred and aggression," and called on his followers "not [to] fall for any provocations." 

Jordi Turull, a former minister who was prevented from being sworn-in as president, faces a request of 16 years in prison. "No surprises. They are coherent with their fictional story to get revenge," he tweeted. He says that faced with "more injustice," he will be "more committed." "No discouragement, no resignation, no renunciation," he added.

With the trial due to start in the coming months, some pro-independence leaders have spent more than a year preemptively imprisoned.

"The pre-trial jail that they imposed on us for so many months forces them to condemn us," said former minister Josep Rull, facing a request for 16 years in prison. "How could they otherwise justify such a long privation of freedom of innocent people? They consider us guilty so they don't have to feel shame for their actions."

Exiled pro-independence leaders react

While nine pro-independence leaders are held in pre-trial jail for their role in the independence bid, seven left the country to avoid entering prison.

Meritxell Serret, a former minister and delegate of the Catalan government in Brussels, said the rebellion accusation "harm the rule of law in Spain."

Aamer Anwar, attorney for one of the leaders abroad (Clara Ponsatí, former minister who is in Scotland), reacted to the proposed sentences as well, saying that through the requests, "the Spanish State reveals once again it’s true colours," and commenting: "Right to a fair trial? this is more like ‘persecution not prosecution’."

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  • Catalan government members in parliament. From right to left: president Quim Torra, VP Pere Aragonès, and Foreign Action minister Ernest Maragall (by Àlex Recolons)

  • Catalan government members in parliament. From right to left: president Quim Torra, VP Pere Aragonès, and Foreign Action minister Ernest Maragall (by Àlex Recolons)