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Extreme-right group Manos Limpias fuels a judicial battle against Catalonia's self-determination

The far right trade union Manos Limpias has filed a complaint against the citizen association that organised the two massive independence demonstrations on the 11th September 2012 and 2013: the National Assembly of Catalonia (ANC). On Monday evening the Spanish nationalist organisation accused the ANC of fostering "insurrection" for having issued a road map proposing to declare independence on the 23rd April 2015 if the Spanish Government did not allow a self-determination vote. Furthermore, in February the extreme-right group had filed a first complaint against the Catalan President, Artur Mas, for "sedition" and "rebellion". On Tuesday, after a preliminary analysis, Catalonia's Supreme Court (TSJC) dismissed the complaint, emphasising the political nature of Mas' statements and actions. Manos Limpias announced that it will appeal the decision, saying that the TSJC is "contaminated" by Catalan nationalism.

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25 March 2014 10:05 PM

by

ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- The far right and Spanish nationalist trade union Manos Limpias is continuing its crusade against Catalonia's self-determination. On Monday evening, the organisation chaired by Fascist Miguel Bernard sent a complaint to the Director of the Spanish Public Prosecutor’s Office against the citizen association that organised the two massive independence demonstrations on the 11th September 2012 and 2013:  the National Assembly of Catalonia (ANC). Manos Limpias accused the grassroots organisation ANC of fostering "insurrection" for having issued a road map that proposed declaring independence from Spain on the 23rd April 2015 if the Spanish Government had not previously allowed a self-determination vote. Furthermore, the organisation was proposing to "take to the streets", in the same vein as the citizen demonstrations or the occupation of squares and public spaces that have been going on in Catalonia and Spain over these last few years. The road map was issued as a political statement and foresaw several intermediate steps, such as exercising the internationally-recognised right to petition using the thousands of signatures that this civil-society organisation has been collecting these last months. The extreme-right group had filed a first complaint in February against the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, for "sedition", "rebellion", "perverting the course of justice" and "disobeying judicial authority". On Tuesday, after a preliminary analysis – including a report by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, Catalonia's Supreme Court (TSJC) dismissed the complaint, emphasising the political nature of Mas' statements and actions. However, Manos Limpias announced that it will appeal the decision, taking it to Spain's Supreme Court. The Extreme-right organisation said that it was expecting the TSJC's decision since it is "contaminated" by Catalan nationalism because it is located in Barcelona.


The tensions between Catalonia and Spain are gradually involving the judiciary. And the extreme-right Spanish nationalism – which has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths in Spain's 20th century – is winning an increasingly important role. Madrid-based media are echoing its claims, acting as its spokesperson. Furthermore, a marginal organisation such as Manos Limpias is filing judicial complaints against Catalan self-determination activists and politicians and in the rest of Spain those complaints are barely criticised.

Extreme right Spanish nationalism is back

In fact, two years ago, when Catalan independence claims started to be shared by a majority of citizens in Catalonia, a few voices and media in Madrid were already starting to suggest cancelling Catalonia's autonomy. In the last few months they have been asking the Spanish Government to adopt stronger measures against Catalan self-determination demands in order to guarantee the unity of Spain, using a language that was constantly heard in Spain before the consolidation of democracy. Ironically, these reactions from the Spanish nationalists have been fuelling support for Catalonia's independence, since many Catalans remember the political, social and cultural repression of Franco’s dictatorship, living in a centralised state that celebrated the unity of Spain and wanted to eliminate diversity and impose homogeneity.

Now, the tensions go one step further, by putting the Catalan National Assembly (Assemblea Nacional de Catalunya, ANC) under the spotlight, with the aim of making this civil society organisation illegal. On Monday evening Manos Limpias filed a judicial complaint with the Spanish Public Prosecutor’s Office. The extreme-right organisation was asking the public authorities to declare the ANC illegal and start a penal procedure for an alleged offence of proposing sedition. The complaint also accused the ANC's President, Carme Forcadell. The text accuses the organisation and its Chairperson of "acting against the Constitutional order" and issuing "a call for insurrection". In addition, it accuses them of "misappropriation of public money".

On Tuesday, Carme Forcadell accused Manos Limpias of "fearing democracy", but she said she was not surprised by the judicial complaint. "First they targeted the President of the Catalan Government and now us, because we are an important part of the [self-determination] process" she stated. However, Forcadell denied that the road map approved was "a call for insurrection". Forcadell explained that by taking control of the infrastructure, they were trying to guarantee that they will continue to work and will not be blocked by any power. "We are proposing what it is normally done in an independence process. Those infrastructures are very important and they have to continue working normally", she said. However, she insisted that "it is the Catalan Government that is the one deciding and the one having the last word", regarding the call for independence. In this sense, she regretted "the biased misinterpretation" of the ANC's road map.

The ANC organised the massive demonstrations for independence of 2012 and 2013

The ANC is a grassroots organisation that has not received any public money, since it is funded by its members and crowd-funding campaigns. It is organised in local and professional associations present throughout the Catalan territory and society. The ANC has always expressed its independence claims in a peaceful and festive way, making use of the freedom of expression, the right to political pluralism, the right to participate in political life, the right to demonstrate and the right of association, which are recognised in any democracy.

For instance, the ANC organised the 1.5 million-strong demonstration for Catalonia’s independence from Spain that took place on the 11th of September 2012, coinciding with Catalonia's National Day. A year later, on the 11th of September 2013, it also organised the 400-kilometre-long human chain formed by over 1.6 million people called the Catalan Way towards Independence, which was inspired by the Baltic Way of 1989.

Madrid-based media called for the ANC to be outlawed

The judicial complaint filed by Manos Limpias against the ANC is not an isolated action. Neither against the ANC nor in terms of other complaints presented by the extreme-right organisation against Catalan independence. For instance, in the last few days several Madrid-based media, including El País newspaper, have been criticising the ANC and many of them have even called for legal measures against the grassroots organisation. These demands outraged part of Catalan society, which was reminded of the outlawing of political parties and unions during Franco's Dictatorship.

As a reaction, since the first demands for the ANC to be outlawed were published some 10 days ago, the organisation has increased its membership by 30%, going from 22,000 full members on the 14th of March to more than 30,000 this Tuesday. Now, totalling full members, sympathisers and volunteers, the ANC is directly backed by 55,000 people.

In addition,  people who are not pro-independence, such as the leader of the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) in Barcelona's City Council, Jordi Martí, have publicly stated that they will join the ANC if it is banned. On top of this, the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), the Catalan Independence Party (ERC), the Catalan Green Socialist and post-Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA) and the radical left-wing and independence party CUP – which between them represent some two thirds of the Catalan Parliament – have expressed their explicit support to the ANC and have criticised the judicial complaint. The governing CiU has stated that if the ANC is declared illegal, Spain "will stop being considered a democratic country". On Friday, the Spokesperson of the People’s Party (PP) at the Spanish Parliament, Alfonso Alonso, said "it is the same imposing something through the ballot boxes than through violence".

The TSJC dismisses the complaint against the Catalan President

On Tuesday, the TSJC announced that it was dismissing the complaint filed by Manos Limpias against the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas. In February the extreme-right organisation accused Mas of "sedition", "rebellion", "perverting the course of justice" and "disobeying judicial authority". After a preliminary analysis, including a report by the Public Prosecution Office, the TSJC stated that it does not see any grounds to take the complaint further and it has decided to dismiss it. The Public Prosecution Office had also recommended that the complaint be dismissed. The TSJC considered the Catalan Parliament's Declaration of Sovereignty to be "a political action". Furthermore, it denies that Mas was disobeying the Constitutional Court which had temporarily cancelled the aforementioned Declaration as a precautionary measure.

The TSJC insisted that Mas' actions are "clearly political" and "they are orientated towards getting" the Spanish Government's approval to organise a self-determination vote. In this vein, the Catalan Supreme Court also stated that the agreement reached by a majority of Catalan parties to organise such a vote on the 9th of November 2014 is "a political activity", not an offence. On Tuesday, Manos Limpias announced that it will appeal the TSJC's decision by taking it to the Spanish Supreme Court.

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  • The façade of Catalonia's Supreme Court (by ACN)

  • The façade of Catalonia's Supreme Court (by ACN)