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Forcadell warns Spain against "restricting the freedom of a democratic parliament"

“It is not a crime to speak up, discuss, and vote in a parliament,” said Carme Forcadell, President of the Catalan Parliament, in a press conference this Monday after testifying before the High Court. She and four members of her Bureau are facing charges for disobedience for not stopping a vote on a unilateral independence referendum in the Catalan chamber. Forcadell insisted that her Bureau will not bend before “those who want to restrict the freedom of a democratic parliament”. She also accused the High Court of violating the principle of parliamentary immunity when its obligation is to guarantee the right of elected representatives to debate freely and to vote in order to exercise their duties. On the other hand, the Bureau’s First Secretary, Anna Simó, representative of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) who was also summoned before the judge this Monday, argued that no court can prohibit a debate in Parliament on the issues that citizens are concerned about.

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08 May 2017 03:12 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).-“It is not a crime to speak up, discuss, and vote in a parliament,” said Carme Forcadell, President of the Catalan Parliament, in a press conference this Monday after testifying before the High Court. She and four members of her Bureau are facing charges for disobedience for not stopping a vote on a unilateral independence referendum in the Catalan chamber. Forcadell insisted that her Bureau will not bend before “those who want to restrict the freedom of a democratic parliament”. She also accused the High Court of violating the principle of parliamentary immunity when its obligation is to guarantee the right of elected representatives to debate freely and to vote in order to exercise their duties. She also stressed that this was not about any given political option but that “democracy itself is at stake”.


Forcadell, and four members of her Bureau are summoned before the Supreme Court for allowing a vote on a unilateral referendum in the Catalan chamber. This Monday Carme Forcadell and her first secretary, Anna Simó of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) were the first ones to testify. Lluís Corominas and Ramona Barrufet, MPs from the liberal PDeCAT party, will face the court on May 12, while Josep Nuet will be there on June 12. 

Following her statement to the court, Forcadell defended in a press conference that “it is not a crime to speak up, discuss, and vote in a parliament” and assured neither she nor her Bureau “will bend before those who want to restrict freedom of expression in parliament and therefore the freedom of expression of our citizens”. She also accused the court of undermining parliamentary immunity instead of protecting it and reminded them of its importance “in order to guarantee the true separation of powers in democracy”.

Both elected representatives made their way from the Parliament to the High Court this Monday morning accompanied by representatives of the Catalan executive and numerous civil organizations, members of Parliament, representatives of the Catalan municipalities and a big crowd of supporting citizens.In her press statement after the hearing,Carme Forcadell insisted that the members of her Bureau “acted according to the Parliament’s regulations at all times”, guarantying “the right of the representatives to debate and vote freely in order to exercise their duties”.

Forcadell pointed out that “it is absolutely inconceivable that members of Parliament are being judged for allowing a vote and that in a democracy the State is trying to convert the Bureau of the Parliament into some kind of mini constitutional court in order o exercise censorship”. The president of the Catalan chamber promised that she and her Bureau “will not allow such serious  interference in this democratic parliament's activities”.

Forcadell also stressed the fact that “what is at stake here is not any given political option but democracy itself”. “We are before the judge today, because we have guaranteed the freedom of expression of our people’s representatives, which is the foundation of our parliamentary activity. If this is what it takes, we are willing to take it as far as we have to,” she added.

The first secretary of the Bureau, Anna Simó, argued that what happened this Monday was a complete anomaly in democracy and warned about the level of “aggression” by the State, which uses the courts instead of giving political answers to the problems it faces. She also insisted on the concept of parliamentary immunity as a fundamental guarantee for the separation of powers in democracy. The First Secretary also recalled the “sacrifices that people before us have made to guarantee the rights that are at stake today”. “The Parliament of Catalonia is sovereign, particularly after the results of the 27S elections, and we will protect the freedom of speech of its elected representatives,” Simó concluded.

Political reaction in favor…

During the support demonstration, several representatives of civil organizations in favor of independence expressed their support and assured that the criminal prosecution of pro-independence representatives conducted by the Spanish government “will not stop the referendum”. “The State Prosecutor and the judiciary will not stop us,” said Jordi Sánchez, president of the Catalan National Assembly, the biggest pro-independence grassroots organization.

Catalonia’s President, Carles Puigdemont, and members of the Catalan Executive gave full support to both Forcadell and Simó. Puigdemont expressed his support through a post on Twitter saying: “We are will always be by your side! Having to answer political questions in court is a sign of democratic weakness.” The Catalan Vicepresident, Oriol Junqueras, said that their commitment to the referendum “remains intact”. “Democracy cannot be banned from office,” he said ironically, referring to the Spanish judiciary's recent decisions to suspend former Catalan President Artur Mas and two of his ministers for the 2014 symbolic vote on independence.

The president of the parliamentary group of the radical-left CUP, Mireia Boya, urged the Parliament Bureau to stand its ground and “not take a step backwards” since “they have the people behind them”, giving them full support. “They’re being judged for talking about a referendum: we have to celebrate it, we need to vote, we need to set a question and a day and vote,” she stressed.

…and against

On the other hand, the Spanish Unionist’s (Ciutadans) spokesperson, Carlos Carrizosa, criticized the presence of Catalan president, Puigdemont, and the leaders of the Catalan government at the High Court. In a press conference after the hearing on Monday morning, he said that “it was the intent of the government to put pressure on the judiciary”. 

The president of the Conservative Party in Catalonia (PP), Xavier García-Albiol, hailed the fact that Forcadell and her Bureau are facing the court, arguing that they “violated democracy”. García-Albiol accused the hundreds of people that accompanied Forcadell to Court of being “the aristocracy of Catalan politics”, people from “publicly funded groups” or “with posts of confidence” in the Government.

The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) reminded both the Catalan and Spanish governments that the current stalemate will not be solved “going against the law nor only thinking about the law”. “There is a need for dialogue and negotiations,” said the president of the PSC in Barcelona, Jaume Collboni. 

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  • Catalan Parliament President, Carme Forcadell, and the First Secretary of the Bureau, Anna Simó, at the entrance of the High Court (by Rafa Garrido)

  • Catalan Parliament President, Carme Forcadell, and the First Secretary of the Bureau, Anna Simó, at the entrance of the High Court (by Rafa Garrido)
Forcadell warns Spain against "restricting the freedom of a democratic parliament"