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Rajoy denies having ordered Catalan President’s prosecution over symbolic independence vote

The Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, confirmed before the Senate that he had “not given any instruction to the Public Prosecution Office” to press charges against the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, for having authorised and organised November 9’s symbolic vote on independence. Rajoy was answering a question from Mas’ party, the centre-right pro-Catalan State Coalition CiU, which had accused the Spanish PM of hiding behind the courts in order to avoid giving Catalan citizens a political answer regarding their self-determination demands. Besides, the CiU Senators showed banners in which they pleaded guilty for November 9’s vote as well. In the morning, the Catalan Government announced it will ask to testify before the court and to do it “en bloc”, if the criminal complaint from the Spanish Public Prosecution Office is accepted.

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25 November 2014 11:27 PM

by

ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- The Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, confirmed before the Senate that he had “not given any instruction to the Public Prosecution Office” to press charges against the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, the Catalan Vice President, Joana Ortega, and the Minister for Education, Irene Rigau, for having authorised and organised November 9’s symbolic vote on independence. Rajoy was answering a question from Mas’ party, the centre-right pro-Catalan State Coalition CiU, which had accused the Spanish PM of hiding behind the courts in order to avoid giving Catalan citizens a political answer regarding their self-determination demands. Besides, the CiU Senators showed banners in which they pleaded guilty for November 9’s vote as well. In the morning, the Catalan Government announced it will ask to testify before the court and to do it “en bloc”, if the criminal complaint from the Spanish Public Prosecution Office against Mas, Ortega and Rigau is accepted by Catalonia’s Supreme Court. The day before, on Monday, it was discovered that the judge of Catalonia’s Supreme Court that will make the decision whether to accept or reject the criminal complaint is quite conservative. In Spain’s judicial system, conservative judges tend to share Spanish nationalist stances or, they tend to be against the recognition of Spain as a pluri-national State.


Catalan lawyers also protest

Besides, also on Tuesday, the Catalan Council of Lawyers, which is a civil society professional association, stated that the Public Prosecution Office suffers from “political manipulation” by the Spanish authorities, a fact that puts it in danger of breaking Rule of Law in Spain. In addition, they warned that the Public Prosecution Office risks losing its “credibility” with this episode. Furthermore, they stated that the judicial complaint against Mas, Ortega and Rigau is “a political and legal mistake”.

Prosecuting the Catalan President will have serious political consequences

The controversy around the Spanish Public Prosecution Office’s criminal complaint against the Catalan President, the Vice President and Minister for Education over the non-binding and symbolic vote on independence is far from disappearing. For more than two weeks, this issue has been at the centre of Catalan and Spanish politics, since it has enormous political implications.

Firstly, there are accusations that the governing People’s Party (PP) and the Spanish Executive manipulated the Public Prosecution Office into pressing charges against the Catalan Government, despite many legal experts, including the main prosecutors in Catalonia, having publicly stated there were not enough legal reasons for such a criminal complaint. If those accusations were true, it would confirm there is no separation of powers in Spain and those having a different ideology to the party ruling the Spanish Government can be prosecuted because of their political ideas.

Secondly, launching a judicial process over the authorization -using the Catalan Government’s powers- for 2.3 million people to peacefully give their opinion about independence from Spain by casting a non-binding ballot in a citizen participation process, might be interpreted as an attack against basic freedoms, such as the freedom of expression, demonstration, ideology and political participation.

A boomerang effect against the Spanish authorities

Thirdly, in the current political situation, with early elections on the horizon that are likely to become a ‘de facto’ referendum on independence, prosecuting the President of Catalonia and members of the Catalan Government over such a non-binding and symbolic act without legal consequences seems provocative, adds tension and is likely to generate feelings of solidarity among many Catalan citizens towards the Catalan President and increase his electoral support.

As a start, last week, the 6 parties supporting the current self-determination process in Catalonia (which represent a 64.5% of the Catalan Parliament) sent a letter to the Director of the Spanish Public Prosecution Office, who is directly appointed by the Spanish Government, in which they plead guilty for November 9’s vote, stating they were as responsible as the Catalan Government. They also pointed out that on November 13, the Catalan Parliament had passed a motion rejecting any legal action for such a symbolic vote and emphasising that the entire Parliament would be also held responsible if the Spanish authorities were to press charges against members of the Catalan Government or whoever had co-organised the vote.

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  • The Spanish PM, Mariano Rajoy, arriving at the Senate on Tuesday (by R. Pi de Cabanyes)

  • The Spanish PM, Mariano Rajoy, arriving at the Senate on Tuesday (by R. Pi de Cabanyes)