Wednesday

14th Apr 2021

Opinion

Behind bars: a visit to an imprisoned Catalan politician

  • The prison where Carme Forcadell, the former Speaker of the Catalan parliament, will serve a 11.5 year sentence for 'sedition' (Photo: Council of Europe)

Mas d'Enric prison, near Tarragona in Catalonia, does not look like an ugly place - for external visitors like us.

You might even think that it is a nice-looking building if you didn't know it was a prison.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

We walk along a glass corridor and a patio with well-kept olive trees before reaching a large room with glass walls, furnished with tables and sofas.

The glass walls are being decorated by inmates with Christmas ornaments. From here you can even see a bit of the Mediterranean forest out there. The beach is only 10km away.

Then she enters the room and we greet her warmly.

We sit on the small sofas and start our conversation. She tells us that people like her being in prison helps to draw the public's attention to conditions in jail and to penitentiary policies.

She continues explaining that she talks a lot with the other inmates, many of them facing very hard lives outside prison. She tries to help them.

Without education and without a solid family, she says, people have a good chance of ending up here where I am. "You can never feel good in jail, but I want to be positive and I don't want to lose hope. Things will get better."

The woman we talked to on that mild autumn afternoon is Carme Forcadell, the former Speaker of the Catalan parliament.

She has been in jail for almost two years. On October 14, she was sentenced to 11.5 years in prison because the Spanish Supreme Court declared her guilty of the bizarre crime of sedition.

The court justified Forcadell's sentence due to "her decisive role in the direction of a process of legal creation that, despite the more than obvious legal flaws, acted as an illusory reference for citizens who would be mobilised as an instrument to exert pressure against the state government."

In other words: what brought her to prison was the "crime" of allowing a democratic parliament to debate and approve laws.

In that specific case, a bill that would allow Catalans to vote in a referendum for self-determination and, if there was a majority in favour of independence, to start the transition towards statehood.

She has been condemned by the Spanish judiciary to more than a decade of imprisonment for having done what everyone would expect from the Speaker of any democratic parliament: not to prevent debate and decision-making by the majority in accordance with the chamber's own rules.

That such an unjust and disproportionate conviction - like the rest of the sentences against the Catalan political prisoners amounting to a total of 100 years of prison - should be handed down in a member state of the European Union, and should not create a scandal for international public opinion, leaves Catalans and many democrats around the world simply stunned.

No decent democracy should ever justify removing the personal freedom of a parliament's president, elected by the voters and invested by the parliamentary majority, because she has not prevented her parliament from debating and implementing a democratic mandate.

And the silence of the international community in the face of such abuse can never ever be justified.

Author bio

Jordi Solé is a former MEP for Republican Left of Catalonia (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, ERC) and Stéphane Bergeron is Canadian MP for the Bloc Québecois.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Nine Catalan separatist leaders given long jail terms

Spain's Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan leaders to between nine and 13 years in prison for sedition and misuse of public funds over their role in Catalonia's 2017 bid for independence. The possible legal immunity of some MEPs remains unanswered.

Catalonia shows dangers of jail terms for non-violence

Time and again, across the world, efforts to "decapitate" non-violent movements, and refusals to engage in political dialogue with them, have led to situations like we are seeing today in Catalonia.

Catalan party: release leader after MEP 'immunity' verdict

The European Court of Justice (CJEU) ruled on Thursday (19 December) that imprisoned Catalan leader, Oriol Junqueras, enjoys parliamentarian immunity as MEP, in a legal victory for the separatist movement which saw nine of its leaders jailed earlier this year.

Sassoli stuck in middle as Catalan MEPs enter building

The parliament's legal services are analysing whether three Catalan leaders elected in the European elections in May - former president Carles Puigdemont, former vice-president Oriol Junqueras and former minister Toni Comín - can now be accredited as MEPs.

Catalan support for Sanchez breaks Spanish deadlock

Catalonia's largest separatist party to abstain during the upcoming confidence vote in the Socialist-led government in exchange for promises of political dialogue. Meanwhile a Belgian judge has suspended an arrest warrant for Carles Puigdemont.

News in Brief

  1. EU states make progress on Covid-19 'travel certificates'
  2. Michel pledges to protect von der Leyen's 'dignity' in future
  3. Libya frees UN-sanctioned human trafficker
  4. European court: jailed Turkish writer's rights violated
  5. EU set to miss 1m electric charging points by 2025 target
  6. Lavrov expects Iran nuclear deal to be saved
  7. France suspends flights from Brazil due to Covid variant
  8. Johnson & Johnson delays roll-out of vaccine in EU

Column

Why Germans understand the EU best

In Germany, there is commotion about a new book in which two journalists describe meetings held during the corona crisis between federal chancellor Angela Merkel, and the 16 prime ministers of its federal constituent states.

Why Iceland isn't the gender paradise you think

Iceland's international reputation masks two blunt realities that face the country's women - the disproportionate levels of gender-based violence that they experience, and a justice system that is frequently suspicious and hostile towards victims of this violence.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. Nato and US urge Russia to back off on Ukraine
  2. Future EU platform seeks to 'stay clean' of hate speech
  3. Denmark threatens Syria deportations amid EU concerns
  4. MEPs raise concerns on vaccine 'travel certificates'
  5. Will Romania be EU's Green Deal laggard?
  6. Muslims, Ramadan, and myths facing 'European civilisation'
  7. Europe & Africa - rebuilding the future
  8. How the pandemic became an EU goldmine for crime

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us