Friday

10th Apr 2020

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

Support quality EU news

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. Migrants trapped on boat in Tripoli due to shelling
  2. EU anti-crisis budget 'could be up to €1.5 trillion'
  3. Western Balkan states appeal for EU help with masks
  4. Spain's lockdown could be extended until 10 May
  5. IMF: Pandemic crisis will be worse than great depression
  6. German economy minister expects progress on EU deal
  7. Italian PM: EU is at risk if no deal on recovery plan
  8. Belgian region to block EU Green Deal

Coronavirus: A test of the West

We are experiencing the first global pandemic unfolding in the 24/7 news cycle and taking its toll, in real time, on our daily lives, our financial security and the global economy.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Latest News

  1. How the EU's virus-alert agency failed
  2. Flemish nationalists torpedo Belgium Green Deal pledge
  3. Eurozone agreed €500bn cushion against virus blow
  4. Why Europe must act now, and on a big scale
  5. EU court blocks Poland's bid to 'frighten' judges
  6. Coronavirus sees approval-rating soar for EU leaders
  7. EU science chief who 'quit' had been told to resign
  8. EU delays 'exit strategies' plan, as WHO urges caution

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us