Pro-independence Esquerra party leader goes into exile
Marta Rovira announces “tough” decision in a letter shortly before she was to appear in court
The pro-independence Esquerra party secretary general Marta Rovira has gone into exile. She announced the decision only minutes before she was due to appear in Spain’s Supreme Court for a hearing. She is under investigation for her role in the independence bid but is currently free on bail. The judge was to review her status in court on Friday. “Exile will be a tough path, but it is the only way for me to recover my political voice,” she said in the letter to Esquerra party members. However, she did not reveal her destination.
“I cannot hide the deep sadness I feel moving away from so many people that I love,” she added. The reasons she gave for her decision include “not feeling free” in Catalonia. “I feel sad, but it would have been much sadder to live in silence inside myself, to feel my freedom of expression censored by courts that intimidate and that shamelessly apply political criteria.” Rovira went on to say that while being investigated and on bail she felt her freedom “limited by arbitrary judicial threats.” “I did not feel free, I did not recognize myself, I have lived in an internal prison these past few weeks,” she said.
"I feel sad, but it would have been much sadder to live in silence inside myself, to feel my freedom of expression censored by courts that intimidate and that shamelessly apply political criteria"
Marta Rovira · Pro-independence Esquerra party secretary general
Marta Rovira is on 60,000-euro bail and is being investigated for crimes of rebellion, sedition and misuse of funds, which carry up to 30 years in prison. On Friday she was to appear in court to find out, along with another 27 officials under investigation in the independence case, whether she was to be prosecuted and for which crimes.
Rovira thus adds her name to the list of pro-independence officials who have sought refuge from the Spanish judiciary in the past few months. Five members of Carles Puigdemont’s cabinet, including the president himself, moved to Brussels shortly after the declaration of independence on October 27. One of these ministers, Clara Ponsatí, is now living in Scotland. A former far-left CUP party MP, Anna Gabriel, moved to Switzerland ahead of a hearing due to be held in Spain’s Supreme Court in mid-February.
Puigdemont's "support" of Rovira's decision
The reactions to Rovira’s decision were immediate. The Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who is now in Finland, expressed “absolute support and respect” for her move. The president, removed by Madrid last October, believes it is “a good decision to continue defending” her rights and that of all Catalans. Other pro-independence MPs also supported her decision, including PDeCAT’s Carles Campuzano, who said Rovira’s move demonstrates how the judicial processes in Spain “are not fair.”
However, her letter stating her intention to go into exile also sparked criticism from the unionist bloc. Ciutadans’ leader, Albert Rivera, spurned her words in the form of an idiom. “May the last member of the coup d’état switch off the light,” he tweeted referring to the several officials who left the country after the declaration of independence in order to avoid the risk of being jailed by the Spanish justice system. For his part, the Socialists leader in Catalonia Miquel Iceta, said that her decision is “wrong.”
Barcelona's mayor: "Hard moments"
Meanwhile, the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, expressed her “sympathy” to Esquerra party, whose two leaders are now either in prison or abroad. “I know these are hard moments, Marta Rovira has just said that she is going into exile. It is not normal that we are in this situation, all of us must do our best to overcome it,” she said during a local plenary session. Colau is one of the leaders of Catalunya en Comú, a party in between the pro-independence and unionist blocs. She went on to suspend the plenary to avoid certain discrepancies between parties mixing with local topics in what she deemed as an “exceptional situation” of Catalan politics.