Government wasn't prepared to implement referendum result in a 'repression scenario', says exiled minister
Toni Comín explains that on October 1 it became clear that "Spain didn't care about its international reputation" and was prepared to "violate civil rights"
The former Catalan government was not prepared "enough" to implement the results of a 'yes' victory in "a repression scenario," said former health minister Toni Comín, currently living on exile in Belgium.
In an exclusive interview with the Catalan News Agency, Comín said the executive had a "thorough strategy" to implement a Catalan Republic in a scenario of negotiation or agreement with the Spanish government.
But on October 1 last year, the day of the independence referendum, they realized that that scenario was not going to happen.
"That day I realized the degree of repression by the Spanish state would go well beyond the limits of the rule of law," Comín explained.
The former Health minister, close ally of former leader Carles Puigdemont, admitted that they thought Spain would not want to "destroy its international reputation as a democratic state."
"It became clear that they didn't care about their international reputation," Comín said, adding that the Spanish government "violated civil rights shamelessly."
Reviewing the events from last October, Comín admits that it was a mistake not to declare independence immediately after the referendum, on October 10, as initially planned.
On that day, former president Carles Puigdemont "suspended" the declaration independence hoping that someone would engage in negotiations with his government –or at least push Madrid to sit around the negotiation table. But no one did, at least not officially.
On October 1, I realized the degree of repression by the Spanish state would go well beyond the limits of the rule of law"
Toni Comín · Former Health minister
"We fell into the trap of thinking that there was a window for international mediation," said Comín. But he holds no regrets. "We've always wanted to solve this with dialogue."
Six days after suspending the declaration of independence, the Spanish state imprisoned two pro-independence activists, Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart, who are still behind bars.
"We played a fair game and they didn't? I prefer to be wrong for having been too honest than having a small tactic victory by using tricks and repression –and the latter is what the Spanish government did," he admitted.
When the Catalan parliament finally declared independence, on October 27, 2017, the ministers took the decision to either stay –and possibly face prison, or go on exile. Comín chose to go abroad, as he was convinced he wouldn't get a fair trial in Spain. Belgium decided not to extradite him and his colleagues last spring, as did Germany with Carles Puigdemont. Nine of his colleagues who stayed in Catalonia are now behind bars.
Comín rejects claims suggested by the Spanish Foreign Affairs minister Josep Borrell that his colleagues are in prison because he and others fled the country. "They are in prison because a court acting against the criminal code and abusing it has decided so," he said. "Are they blaming us for the Francoist decisions of the Spanish National Court or the Supreme Court? We won't fell into this trap," he added.
Comín said he is prepared to keep fighting from abroad, and announced that the so-called 'Council for the Republic' will "soon" be opened to defend the cause of Catalonia's self-determination internationally.
"There are many governments in Europe that, behind closed doors, are appalled by the authoritarian attitude of Spain," said Comín. "Many are starting to understand that we are right. What will happen when 15 or 16 of them understand that we are?"