13) SPAIN’S PERSECUTION OF CATALAN LEADERS CONTINUES
A Spanish Supreme Court judge has charged 13 Catalan separatist politicians, including fugitive former regional president Carles Puigdemont, with rebellion for their attempt to declare independence from Spain. Judge Pablo Llarena’s indictment on March 23 wrapped up the investigation into the events that six months ago plunged Spain into its deepest political crisis in decades. Rebellion charges are punishable with up to 30 years in prison.
Llarena said that 25 Catalan separatists in total will be tried for rebellion, embezzlement or disobedience.
Others charged with rebellion were former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras, who is already in pre-trial detention; seven other members of the ousted Catalan government; former Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell; jailed separatist activists Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart and the leader of the left-wing separatist ERC party, Marta Rovira, who said she was fleeing Spain. In a letter to party supporters, Ms Rovira said that she was sad to leave Spain, “but it’s been more saddening to lead a silenced life.”
Puigdemont and four other Catalan politicians fled to Brussels following the failed secession attempt in late October. Anna Gabriel, a former MP for the left-wing separatist CUP party, fled to Switzerland earlier this year.
Spain’s post-Franco constitution insists the country is “indivisible” and courts have blocked Catalonia’s independence efforts at every turn. Secession is not allowed without a constitutional amendment.
Twelve of the former regional ministers are also charged with misuse of public funds, and seven other MPs are charged with disobedience.
The judge also required the 14 ex-members of the Catalan cabinet to pay €2.1 million (£1.85m) as a collective deposit before the trial establishes whether they need to pay back misused public funds.
That includes €1.6m that, according to the judicial investigation, were used to pay for the October 1 referendum that set the turbulent events in motion, and which Madrid insists was illegal.
Llarena described the case as “an attack on the constitutional state that, through the desire to impose a change in the form of government for Catalonia and the rest of the country, is of unusual gravity and persistence.”
His ruling also warned that the strategy to secede Catalonia was “dormant and awaiting resumption” once separatists regained control of the Catalan government.
Two days later, protesters clashed with riot police in Barcelona and other Catalan towns following the detention Carles Puigdemont in Germany.
A German court was set to rule on whether he should remain in custody while other courts decide whether he should be extradited to Spain.
Puigdemont was being held in a prison in Neumuenster after his arrest on March 25 when he entered Germany on his way back from a trip to Finland to Belgium, where he has been holed up since he fled Spain in October.
EU rules state that member states must honour arrest warrants issued by other members — but they retain the right not to extradite people if the crimes they are accused of are not crimes in the state that detained them.
German courts will consider whether the Spanish crime of rebellion is equivalent to the German offence of high treason in order to determine whether it constitutes grounds for extradition.
German Left party MP Andrej Hunko said the arrest was a “disgrace.”
Tens of thousands rallied in Puigdemont’s defence in Barcelona, marching on the Spanish government’s representative’s office and clashing with police.
The Catalan parliament’s speaker Roger Torrent — the highest-ranking elected official in the region, as the assembly has been unable to elect a president in Puigdemont’s absence — called for a “democratic front” of political parties, trade unions and other organisations to challenge Madrid’s “thirst for revenge.”
The Communist Party of Canada has condemned the Spanish state’s ongoing suppression of the Catalonian independence movement, as an unacceptable violation of the Catalan people’s national right to self-determination. Noting that the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau has refused to criticize Spain’s violence against Catalonia, the CPC points out that Canada itself does not recognize the right to self-determination for Quebec, nor for the Acadians and Indigenous peoples within the Canadian state.
(With files from the Morning Star.)
(The above article is from the April 1-15, 2018, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)