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19th Jan 2020

Catalonia demands EU intervention, as crisis deepens

  • Some MEPs on Tuesday demanded an amnesty or pardon for the jailed Catalan politicians

The representative of the Catalonian government to the EU, Meritxell Serret, demanded on Tuesday (15 October) that other political actors, including the European institutions, now intervene to pave the way for a political dialogue between Spain and Catalonia.

The Spanish Supreme court on Monday sentenced nine Catalan leaders to up to 13 years in prison for sedition and the misuse of public funds, over their role in the region's 2017 failed bid for independence.

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The three other defendants were found guilty only of disobedience and not sentenced to prison.

"It is necessary to sit and talk," said Serret.

"Nobody should stay silent with this unacceptable verdict," which she considers that "will only worsen the rights of all citizens".

However, the EU commission said on Monday that it fully respects the Spanish Constitutional order, "including decisions of the Spanish judiciary".

"Our position has not changed: this is and remains an internal matter for Spain," said a commission spokeswoman.

Catalonia: an EU conflict?

However, Irish MEP Matt Carthy (from leftwing GUE/NGL group) rejected that argument and tweeted that the ruling of the Spanish court is "a fundamental betrayal of human rights and democracy".

Many other MEPs stood up for the imprisoned leaders from Catalonia, pledging to bring this debate to the European Parliament (EP).

Scottish MEP Sheila Ritchie (from the liberal Renew group) said on Twitter that "the Spanish government has not handled this issue well".

"I will ask the Spanish government to engage in constructive dialogue to map out a way for Catalonia," she added.

Her compatriot MEP Alyn Smith, president of the European Federal Alliance (EFA) group described the sentences in a statement as "a travesty of justice which will only serve to worsen already difficult relations between Catalonia and Spain".

Some MEPs also supported the possibility of an amnesty for the jailed Catalan politicians.

The leader of the Spanish leftist party Unidas Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, also suggested a pardon of the sentence - a governmental decision used rarely in recent Spanish history.

However, Spain's interior minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, ruled out either pardons and amnesties.

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez insisted on Monday on full compliance of the sentence with no special privileges - in line with other unionist parties like the liberals Ciudadanos, the People's Party (PP) and the far-right Vox.

"In Spain and in Europe, we defend the law," tweeted one Catalan MEP from the European People's Party (EPP), Dolors Montserrat.

According to Serret, Sánchez has been more "aggressive" during the past few days, threatening to take direct control of Catalonia - as it did in 2017 - if secessionist leaders break the law again.

"He has shown himself incapable to solve the problem [of Catalonia]," she added.

The former agriculture minister of Carles Puigdemont's cabinet, and current representative of the government of Catalonia to the EU, told the reporters in Brussels that she herself is expecting a European arrest warrant (EAW) soon - just like the former president of Catalonia, Puigdemont.

"We all [in exile] expect EAW, but we do not know when [the EAW will be issued]," she said, adding that she will collaborate with the Belgian justice system.

Serret, who is currently living in Belgium, was charged on May 2018 with disobedience and misuse of public funds.

Chaos in Barcelona

Within hours of the verdict of the Spanish court on Monday, thousands of independence supporters blocked Barcelona's Josep Tarradellas-El Prat airport, where more than 100 flights were canceled.

According to Spanish newspaper El País, emergency services treated around 130 people - mostly at the airport, after police charges.

Public transport and highways were also affected by the demonstrations in all the region.

On Tuesday, 45 flights were canceled so far, although this figure may increase .

More demonstrations are planned for the upcoming days.

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.

High tension in Catalonia two years after referendum

Two years after the former government of Carles Puigdemont held a unilateral independence referendum in defiance of the Spanish courts and constitution, the political and social conflict in Catalonia is still a key issue for both Spain and Europe.

Catalonia celebrates national day ahead of trial verdicts

Catalonia celebrated on Wednesday its national day - while awaiting the trial verdict on 12 Catalan separatists, former politicians of Carles Puigdemont's government. That decision is expected for early October.

French MPs criticise Catalonia situation ahead of verdict

More than 50 French MPs have voiced their concerns about the situation in Catalonia. The acting Spanish minister for foreign affairs - and incoming EU foreign affairs chief - Josep Borrell has lamented "the ignorance about the reality of Spain".

Opinion

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.

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