Amnesty calls for immediate release of arrested pro-independence leaders
Detention and charges of sedition “constitute excessive restrictions of their rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly,” says Amnesty
Amnesty International calls on Spanish authorities to drop the charges of sedition against imprisoned pro-independence leaders in Catalonia and to put “an immediate end” to their pre-trial detention. In a public statement released on Wednesday, Amnesty deems both sedition accusations and their preemptive arrest as “excessive”.
The presidents of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), Jordi Sánchez, and Òmnium Cultural, Jordi Cuixart, were sent to jail on Monday pending a sedition trial at the Spanish National Court. As two outstanding figures of the Catalan independence process at the grassroots level, they are accused of leading protests to obstruct police operations against the October 1 referendum on independence.
“While summoning protestors with the purpose of obstructing a lawful police operation may be punishable as a minor offense,” their prosecution for a “serious crime such as sedition” and their detention “constitute excessive restrictions of their rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly,” reads Amnesty’s public statement.
"The prosecution of Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart for a serious crime such as sedition and their detention on remand constitute excessive restrictions of their rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly"
Amnesty finds enough evidence to suggest that the arrested leaders “summoned protesters to gather in front of governmental buildings with the intention of obstructing a lawful police operation”. Yet, “it appears that they did not call on protesters to use violence,” and therefore “the sporadic violent acts” such as the “damage of a few police cars” cannot be ascribed “directly or indirectly” to them as organizers of the protests.
Prisoners of conscience?
Amnesty’s public statement is a preliminary evaluation of the case. As the trial goes on and with more information available, the organization will consider whether Sánchez and Cuixart can be labelled as prisoners of conscience, said Adriana Ribas, Amnesty coordinator in Catalonia.