On Monday 14th October, the Spanish Supreme Court sentenced leading Catalan politicians and civil activists to between 9 and 13 years in prison. It is with perverse irony that the Spanish justice system announced the verdict on the same day that General Franco’s regime condemned Lluís Companys to death. He was the last President of the Catalan Republic and executed on 15th October 1940.
Although this verdict isn’t quite as severe, many are wondering why these Catalan people are in jail for exercising their civil rights?
Since 14th October, over 600 people have been injured in clashes between riot police and demonstrators. Peaceful action is fundamental to the Catalan independence movement, but tensions have risen. Videos on social media shows the shocking violence of national police and rioters. It may seem hypocritical that a movement, which promotes non-violent resistance, has cost the Barcelona city council a reported €500 thousand euros of damage. But it is no longer just a pro-independence protest. The violence cannot be justified, but this is self-defence against police brutality, repression and injustice.
To deny the Catalan people their right to vote on independence is anti-democratic.
In a recent survey in May 2019, only 47.2% of Catalans wanted independence, in comparison with the 44.5% of Scottish people who voted to leave the UK in 2014. The difference is Scotland gave its people the chance to vote, whereas the Catalan attempt at self-determination in 2017 was deemed “illegal” and repressed by police brutality. The reasons are complex why Spain doesn’t want a Catalan republic, but the way the situation is being dealt with only fuel pro-independence feeling.
I was staying in Catalonia when the government declared independence on 27th October 2017, and witnessed the reaction of Spain to implement the “nuclear option”. It was then that the former president, Carles Puigdemont and members of his cabinet had to flee to Belgium, where they remain in exile. After the 14th October’s verdict, Spain reissued their European arrest warrant.
There has been little coverage in our national news about Catalonia, but with the current European political situation, it’s no surprise that we are turning a blind eye on the extremism of the Spanish state.
Last modified: 3rd November 2019