Marta Rovira breaks silence: “I'm in Switzerland to keep fighting against a brutal political persecution”

ERC's secretary general confirms she is in touch with Swiss authorities and her lawyers are studying "all legal options", including the possibility of political asylum

ERC's secretary general Marta Rovira in Switzerland (by ACN)
ERC's secretary general Marta Rovira in Switzerland (by ACN) / ACN

ACN | Geneve

April 13, 2018 09:16 AM

Marta Rovira, secretary general of the second biggest pro-independence party in the Catalan Parliament, broke her silence today, three weeks after announcing she was leaving Catalonia to seek "refuge" abroad. ERC's leader confirmed in an interview with the Catalan news agency (ACN) that she is in Switzerland "to keep fighting against a brutal political persecution" and to "recover" her freedom of speech.

Rovira confirmed she is in touch with the Swiss authorities. The Spanish Supreme Court has issued an international arrest warrant against her. It is now for Switzerland to decide whether to extradite her or not. So far, though, she is a free woman. "We will respect whatever decision they take, but we wanted to explain to them that we are here fleeing political persecution and seeking protection and the opportunity to keep fighting against injustice," she said in the interview.

Asked about whether she will apply for political asylum, Rovira said her lawyers are studying "all options on the table" but no decision has been taken yet. According to her, it is important to explain "anywhere it is needed" that Catalans were not violent in seeking independence. ERC's leader added that "it seems" that some courts around Europe "are starting to listen" to what prosecuted independence leaders have to say. A situation that she says is in stark contrast to what is happening in Spain.

Taking the “path of exile”

As for her motives for choosing the “path of exile”, Rovira said she felt “forced” to leave after becoming convinced the Supreme Court would send her to pretrial prison. “What saddens me most is I do not know when I will be able to go back. I’m aware I have left for many years,” she said. Despite misgivings about leaving her life behind, Rovira appears convinced that fleeing was the only option in the face of a “a totally disproportionate political persecution with no place in any democratic political system.”

Another argument the ERC leader gave for her decision to go to Switzerland was to recover her freedom of expression. Rovira said that during the last few months in Catalonia she felt “totally coerced and threatened.” The reason she chose Switzerland as her destination is because she believes it has a political system that allows its citizens a voice, and it is a place where decisions are made by voting “just about every three months.”

Rovira left Spain three weeks ago, hours before she was due to appear before the Spanish Supreme Court. Five other Catalan leaders were jailed that day, including the former Parliament speaker, Carme Forcadell, and the then presidential candidate, Jordi Turull. There are now nine political leaders in prison in Madrid, including ERC's president and deposed Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras. Seven others, including Rovira and deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, are abroad seeking international protection.