Nine Catalan politicians and social leaders (seven elected MEPs) are in pre-trial detention for up to six months. They have been accused of rebellion or sedition, and face between 15 and 30 years in jail. The so-called rebellion refers to the 1 October referendum, organized by Carles Puigdemont’s government, in which more than two million Catalans voted despite the violence of Spanish police that left 893 people injured and was condemned by Human Rights Watch, among others. A rebellion organized with ballot boxes is indeed a strange rebellion.
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Incredible as it may sound, at this point Catalan political prisoners have spent more time in jail for organizing a referendum than members of the paramilitary group GAL who, following orders from the Spanish interior ministry, tortured and killed in Euskadi during the eighties -- a clear case of double standards.
Many Spanish unionists tend to forget that, as established in Article 472 of the Criminal Code, peaceful and orderly demonstrations do not constitute a crime of rebellion. What’s more, calling, organizing and holding a referendum is not a crime in Spain after the relevant articles from the Criminal Code were removed in 2005. In fact, even declaring independence is not a crime according to Spain’s Criminal Code. The misuse of funds charges also sound fake, taking into account that this week Cristóbal Montoro, Spain’s finance minister, recognized that no public funds were used for the referendum.
The Spanish outrage at the so far unsuccessful attempt to extradite Carles Puigdemont for rebellion has been loud (for example a Spanish member of the European People’s Party said that “If the European arrest warrant doesn’t work, Schengen is useless”) and aggressive (with a prominent Spanish commentator calling a German federal minister “racist”). However, the hypocrisy of this outrage has also been brought to light, as not so long ago, many former high-ranking nazi officials were protected from extradition in Spain. In the latest turn of events, the Spanish Supreme Court has harshly criticized the German court deciding on Puigdemont's extradition case, a move that has not escaped the attention of German media.
The fact is that the interpretation of Spanish law has been systematically biased against the Catalan pro-independence movement. The latest blow to its credibility has been the rejection by Spanish judge Pablo Llarena to allow imprisoned MP Jordi Sànchez to exercise his political rights and be elected as president of the regional parliament, as even the UN had advised in its precautionary recommendations. Llarena keeps Catalan leaders in prison because, due to their political convictions, there is risk of “reoffending”.
The fundamental problem is that Spain's political transition, widely praised for decades, was deeply flawed. In the name of reconciliation, a big chunk of the Spanish deep state never faced reform, preserving its right-wing elites and practices inside the police, the military or the judiciary system. Contrarily to Germany, Francoism was whitewashed in Spain and the country’s past was never confronted.