War of words as detained Catalan activists prepare for court

Arrests questioned as pro-independence group members due to answer terrorism charges on Thursday

A protest in the Catalan town of Folgueroles against the Guardia Civil operation against pro-independence activists (by ACN)
A protest in the Catalan town of Folgueroles against the Guardia Civil operation against pro-independence activists (by ACN) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

September 25, 2019 04:00 PM

Seven of the nine Catalan pro-independence activists arrested by the Guardia Civil police on Monday will appear in Spain's National Court on Thursday to answer charges of terrorism, rebellion and possession of explosives.

Two of the nine members of the Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CDR) pressure group were released on bail the day of their arrest, while the remaining seven were held in custody and transferred to the Madrid region.

The arrests in a series of raids involving 500 police officers in a number of Catalan towns near Barcelona has caused consternation in the pro-independence movement, which has always explicitly rejected violence as a means to achieve its goals. 

On Tuesday, president Quim Torra sent a letter to acting Spanish president Pedro Sánchez asking for "explanations" of statements made by the acting government's representative in Catalonia, Teresa Cunillera, who referred to the arrests as "preventive detentions."

In his letter, Torra expressed his "indignation," along with that of his government and "a significant part of the Catalan public," over the police operation that he said "passed over the principles of the presumption of innocence" for "political ends."

Judiciary to act "independently and without interference"

Spanish government sources responded by insisting that the judiciary will deal with the case "independently and without interference," and referred Torra to the interior ministry's statement that the separation of powers is one of the "basic principles of the rule of law."

That was a message reiterated on Tuesday by Eva Granados, parliamentary spokeswoman for the Catalan wing of the ruling Socialist party, who told Torra that the acting Spanish government "has nothing to do" with the judicial investigation.

Meanwhile, Lorena Roldán, the leader of Catalonia's largest opposition party, the unionist Ciutadans (Cs), criticized Torra for his public statements "justifying the violent suspects," and added that a president "must always condemn violence."

Linking independence movement with violence "intolerable," says Torra 

However, addressing parliament on Wednesday, president Torra insisted that the operation was political in nature, and he repeated his previous claims that the ultimate aim is to create a false narrative of violence in Catalonia.

Torra, who heads a government of the two main pro-independence parties, also said his executive's goal continues to be achieving independence through democratic means, and he described linking the independence movement with terrorism as "intolerable."

Presumption of innocence comes first, says judges' group

Yet, Torra was not the only one disturbed by the arrests. Ignacio González Vega, the spokesman for Judges for Democracy organization, questioned the public prosecutor's "bluntness" on Tuesday, which he described as inappropriate for an initial phase of an investigation.

Speaking on a Spanish television channel, Vega expressed "surprise" over the quantity of information released to the public in what is a secret investigation, and he insisted that the most important thing was the presumption of innocence of the "suspects."