'No political prisoners': Memo shows Spain's diplomacy strategy on Catalan trial

Spanish judiciary safeguards rights "more than in most of Europe," claims foreign ministry document

Spain's Supreme Court courtroom during the Catalan independence trial (by EFE)
Spain's Supreme Court courtroom during the Catalan independence trial (by EFE) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

March 1, 2019 11:55 AM

A document from the Spanish foreign ministry on the Catalan independence trial claims that the rights of politicians and activists sitting in the dock for calling a referendum and declaring independence in 2017 are not only "rigorously safeguarded", but are "more so than in most of Europe."

The document detailing the independence trial from the point of view of the Spanish authorities says the proceedings "fully respect the fundamental rights of the accused" and stresses that the Supreme Court in Madrid "is a completely independent court."

The document in English, which the Catalan News Agency (ACN) has seen, was produced to be handed out after meetings held abroad by the foreign ministry to explain the political situation in Catalonia.

"The acts carried out in September and October 2017 were unlawful, and that is why they are to be examined in an imminent trial by the Supreme Court," says the three-page document that answers two questions: "What happened in September and October 2017?" and "How are criminal proceedings conducted?"

Trial has "all guarantees inherent to a democratic state"

The document from the Spanish foreign ministry and España Global, the body created to manage Spain's image and reputation abroad, says the trial of the Catalan leaders will be carried out "with all the guarantees inherent to a democratic state under the rule of law."

"Individuals' rights are rigorously safeguarded in Spanish criminal proceedings, more so than in most of Europe," says the document, adding that the proceedings "fully respect" the defendants' "presumption of innocence, the right to defend oneself, the right not to incriminate oneself, and the right to a fair trial."

Leaders in custody not "political prisoners," says document

The document denies that the pro-independence politicians on trial are "political prisoners" and that "no intergovernmental organization operating in the sphere of human rights, nor any NGO active in the same field, has recognized these individuals as political prisoners."

Although criticism of the defendants' "lengthy provisional detention" is acknowledged, the document fails to mention that some organizations, such as Amnesty and the World Organisation Against Torture, have called for activist leaders, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, to be released.

The document justifies the preventive detention of the leaders, saying it is "provided for in Spanish law (as it is in that of all comparable countries, with even longer terms)," and that it is "in compliance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the European Convention on Human Rights."