ER Editor: This BBC article is linked to below but we recommend it here – Violent clashes erupt as Spanish court jails Catalonia leaders. Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has had a new arrest warrant issued for him; he is still living abroad.
Weep For Catalonia, Weep for Liberalism in Europe
The vicious jail sentences handed down today by the fascists (I used the word with care and correctly) of the Spanish Supreme Court to the Catalan political prisoners represent a stark symbol of the nadir of liberalism within the EU.
As The BBC reports, Spain’s Supreme Court has sentenced nine Catalan separatist leaders to between nine and 13 years in prison for sedition over their role in an independence referendum in 2017.
The prosecution had sought up to 25 years in prison for Oriol Junqueras, the former vice-president of Catalonia and the highest-ranking pro-independence leader on trial.
Junqueras was handed the longest sentence of 13 years for sedition and misuse of public funds.
Others to receive prison sentences for sedition were:
- Dolors Bassa, former Catalan labour minister (12 years)
- Jordi Turull, former Catalan government spokesman (12 years)
- Raül Romeva, former Catalan external relations minister (12 years)
- Carme Forcadell, ex-speaker of the Catalan parliament (11.5 years)
- Joaquim Forn, former Catalan interior minister (10.5 years)
- Josep Rull, former Catalan territorial minister (10.5 years)
- Jordi Sànchez, activist and ex-president of the Catalan National Assembly (9 years)
- Jordi Cuixart, president of Catalan language and culture organisation Òmnium Cultural (9 years)
The nine leaders, who had already spent months in pre-trial detention, were acquitted of a more serious charge of rebellion.
That an attempt to organise a democratic vote for the Catalan people in pursuit of the right of self determination guaranteed in the UN Charter can lead to such lengthy imprisonment is a plain abuse of the most basic of human rights.
I was forced to withdraw my lifelong personal support for the EU when, in response to the vicious crushing of the Catalan referendum by Francoist paramilitary forces, when the whole world saw grandmothers hit on the head and thrown down stairs as they attempted to vote, all the institutions of the EU – Council, Commission and Parliament – lined up one after the other to stress their strong support for the Madrid paramilitary action in maintaining “law and order”.
Today we see the same thing. As the Catalans are imprisoned for efforts at democracy, the EU Commission stated that it “respects the position of the Spanish judiciary” and “this is, and remains, an internal matter for Spain, which has to be dealt with in line with its constitutional order.” The Commission here is simply ignoring what is very obviously a fundamental breach of basic human rights. This is far worse than anything Poland or Hungary have done in recent years, and the Commission is also showing a quite blatant hypocrisy in its relative treatment of its Western and Eastern members.
There was a time when the EU was a shining example of economic and environmental regulation and of regional wealth redistribution. My fondness for the institution dates from it being one of our few defences from economic Thatcherism. But it has evolved into something very different, a mutual support club for neoliberal political leaders.
I do not much blog about Brexit because I am less concerned about it than the majority of the population. I neither think remaining inside is essential nor that leaving it is a political panacea. I do desperately wish to retain freedom of movement, and believe leaving the customs union would be economic self-harm on a large scale. A Norway style relationship would suit me fine, but by and large I prefer to stay out of the argument. I do believe that, as a matter of democratic legitimacy, having had the 2016 referendum the result should be respected; England should leave and Scotland and Northern Ireland remain.
But I also say this. A million people are expected to march on Saturday in support of the EU. That is the EU which has just expressed its active support for the jailing of Catalans for holding a vote. They join Julian Assange as political prisoners in the EU held for non-violent thought crime.
I say this to anyone thinking of marching on Saturday.
It is morally wrong, at this time, to show public support for the EU, unless you balance it by showing your disgust at the fascist repression of the Catalans and the EU’s support for that repression.
Every single person going on Saturday’s march has a moral obligation to balance it by sending a message to the EU Commission that their support for this repression is utterly out of order, and carrying a flag or sign on the march indicating support for the Catalan political prisoners. Otherwise you are just a smug person marching for personal self interest. Alongside the progenitors of the Iraq War, who doubtless will again dominate the platform speeches.
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