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Imprisonment of Catalan leaders ‘unique situation in Europe,’ says former ad hoc judge for Human Rights court

MEP Renate Weber urges Spain to negotiate with pro-independence parties, stating that judicial means won’t necessarily solve political problems

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14 January 2018 12:22 PM

by

ACN | Brussels

Renate Weber, a Romanian MEP and former ad hoc judge at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, said that the imprisonment of Catalan leaders “is very difficult to understand” and a “unique situation in Europe.”

In an interview with the Catalan News Agency (ACN), Weber stated that she’s never seen a situation like this before, and added that she is disappointed with the European Union’s attitude: “More should have been done to achieve dialogue and get the parties involved to sit at the same table and find solutions."

While Weber acknowledged that bringing the case against pro-independence leaders to the ECHR would be a viable option, she stressed that it would probably be a “very long” process. “A case like that could last several years: three, five, seven… it’s really a lot of time,” she said. 

The best scenario, she expressed, would be for Catalonia and Spain to negotiate a common solution: “When faced with political problems, if you only use judicial means, you don’t necessarily solve the situation, but divide society even more.” 

  • “When faced with political problems, if you only use judicial means, you don’t necessarily solve the situation, but divide society even more” 

    Renate Weber · MEP and former ad hoc judge for ECHR

The results of the December 21 election must be taken into account, further stated Weber. Although unionist Ciutadans party got the most seats in the Catalan hemicycle, pro-independence parties managed to hold on to an absolute majority in the Parliament, and according to the former judge “it’s up to the MPs to decide how to govern Catalan society.”

The MEP additionally questioned why some pro-independence leaders were freed while others remain behind bars. Out of 12 individuals who were jailed at some point for their role in Catalonia’s push for independence, four remain behind bars.

Grassroots leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez were the first ones to enter prison on October 16, facing charges of sedition for allegedly organizing protests in the run-up to the independence referendum. Once independence was declared later in the month, the Spanish government responded by imposing direct rule on Catalonia through the constitutional Article 155. In the days that followed, all government members who did not leave the country were preemptively sent to jail on charges of rebellion.

Vice president Oriol Junqueras and Home Affairs minister Joaquim Forn are the two cabinet members still in prison. Last week, Junqueras’ appeal to be released was rejected by the Spanish Supreme Court. According to Weber, the judge’s reasoning “clearly stated that [Junqueras] did not incite violence or commit any act of violence.” The MEP stated that further clarifications are needed in order to justify why he has not been freed on bail. 

With only one week to go before the Parliament’s opening session following the election, neither Junqueras, Forn nor Sànchez know whether they will be able to take their posts as MPs for pro-independence parties. “I know that Junqueras asked to attend the opening session, and I hope that he is granted the permission to do it,” said Weber.

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  • MEP Renate Weber during an interview with the Catalan News Agency on January 14 2018 (by Blanca Blay)

  • MEP Renate Weber during an interview with the Catalan News Agency on January 14 2018 (by Blanca Blay)