Oriol Junqueras’ Letter from Estremera Prison

Translated by Mark McNaught

The following is a translation of a letter sent by Oriol Junqueras to the Catalan people. Original Catalan here. Junqueras is the legitimately elected Vice-President of Catalonia who is now a political prisoner in a Spanish jail, for the ‘crime’ of fullfilling an electoral mandate to establish an Independent Catalan Republic. He and others are charged with sedition, rebellion, and misuse of public funds, and could potentially face 30 years in prison. Under Spanish statute, sedition and rebellion require violence, of which there has been none by the Catalan independence movement.

“The days continue to pass in this jail. Metal doors open and close, intense cold, fellow-inmates with whom you live condemned for all kinds of crimes; from murders to sexual assault, from bank fraud to numerous cases of narcotics trafficking. Who is not here is any individual of any of the political parties of which there are hundreds of defendants – and convicts – for cases of corruption. At least they are not here. They must be somewhere else because they say that justice in Spain is equally applied to everyone.

I have good relationships with many prisoners. I share hours of recreation with them. I have lunch with them and ask all kinds of questions. In prison, as everywhere, there are people from all walks of life. But, above all, real people are here. There are people willing to help you if you need anything, there are prisoners who advise you; you are advised over those with whom you must have a good relationship, who is trustworthy and with whom you should relate to. And very often they advise you with criteria.

Most of the day, however, you live in a small space; the cell. You spend sixteen hours of the day in the cell, closed in and locked up. For a month my cellmate was Carles Mundó, the director who closed the Model; a paradox of life. Now my partner is Quim Forn, a beautiful person.

Estremera (prison) is a mostly routine prison. Everything is scheduled and everything goes according to prison time, supervised by civil servants. I write a lot and I read. I do sport, which is the best pasttime. I play chess. And I have gotten back into the habit of writing by hand. I write handwritten letters that I send by post. There is no social media in prison. There is no internet access, there are no mobile phones. There is no communication with the outside, except for the visits and phone calls that you do from jail, with conventional telephones. They last four minutes. Ten calls per week. I use them all, to talk to the family or the Esquerra Republicana staff. Sometimes, you can watch TV, TVE (Spanish public TV). We will never get out if it is through the mouth of the 155 block (unionists who support the application of Spanish Constitution article 155, dissolving, sending into exile, and imprisoning the democratically elected Catalan Government). The misinformation is absolute, our voice does not exist.

The visits are a great comfort. Those of friends on the weekend, once per week. They last forty minutes, separated by glass three fingers thick. I speak through a telephone and my ‘guests’ speak through an interphone. It’s like a phone booth. Lately, visits have made me suffer. I do not know what happened, but the requests to visit do not always reach their destination, so instead of four, the last time there were only two who could enter the cabin. The others were not authorized. Thursdays are family visits, these are also monitored but without glass in between.

One of the activities to which I dedicate more time is to open correspondence. To read the letters that I receive. I try to answer all that I can. But the truth is that I do not have the capacity.

I feel strong, in my convictions, those I have always held. On the other hand, the legal opinions hold – according to jurisprudence- that I will be able to take the oath of deputy even though I am in prison. And that I maintain these rights. If so, I will exercise them, with all enthusiasm, faithful to the democratic mandate that emerges from the polls on December 21st. I do not know when I can get out of prison, that is sure. Leave aside the appeals. But I have no doubt that the more popular support is expressed at the ballot box, the more strength the arguments I will have – we will also have Jordis (Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart) and Quim – leaving Estremera behind. The citizens, with their votes, will rectify a manifestly unjust situation against people who have always fought honestly, face to face. We have never hidden, from anything or anybody. And always, always, we will do it peacefully and civicly. It is also necessary to be honest, for jurisprudence and legal rulings that allow me to exercise all rights are not guaranteed, we have already seen how they have been abrogated. But it would be difficult to deprive me of them with justification.

I’m fine, wanting to meet everyone again. I would have wanted to be able to participate in the campaign, to be able to travel up and down the country or at least to express myself in my own voice. They have not allowed this. But that is the situation and it is under these conditions that the electoral campaign is contested in my case; in spite of being the head of the list, locked in a prison on the plateau of Castile. Let’s say that we are not competing under conditions of equality.

But I insist, once again: we have to do it again. We must put the ballots in the ballot boxes with more determination than ever. We must also conciliate, form alliances, and widen the base to be stronger. And above all, I ask for the good of all that I will not deceive; I will fight without rest, persevere, because sooner or later we will prevail. And smile, let no one remove your smile, for you will dwindle hope. There is light on the horizon, that is sure. And it is bright. Fight, fight for a people that weeps, do not weep for a people that fights.

Good health and hugs to all!

Oriol Junqueras. Top of the list of Esquerra Republicana ”

Spanish Supreme Court withdraws international arrest warrant for Puigdemont

The Spanish Supreme Court has withdrawn the international arrest warrant for the Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, and his four ministers, all of whom are currently in Belgium. The extradition request was issued by Spain’s Audiencia Nacional (National Court). However, the Supreme Court took over the case last week and decided to rescind the arrest warrant on Tuesday morning. Puigdemont and the members of his cabinet (Lluís Puig, Clara Ponsatí, Meritxell Serret and Toni Comín) testified on Monday at a Belgian court regarding their extradition. The judge in the EU capital announced that a decision on their extradition would be taken on December 14.

Source

Catalan Government Ministers Denied Bail

Vice president Junqueras, Home Affairs minister Forn, and pro-independence civil leaders Cuixart and Sànchez, will continue held in custody, the other six jailed officials granted a 100,000€ bail.

The Spanish Supreme Court rejected to release all Catalan pro-independence leaders who have been in jail for more than a month. The judge kept in prison four officials: the vice president of the deposed Catalan government, Oriol Junqueras; the Home Affairs minister, Joaquim Forn; and the two leaders of pro-independence associations, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart. He also decided to grant a 100,000€ to the other six incarcerated leaders, all of them members of Puigdemont’s cabinet.

Source

President of Catalunya Free and Safe to Carry on the Day Job

The President and ministers are declared free to go about their business in Belgium as Belgian judge considers the international arrest warrant issued by Madrid.

President Carles Puigdemont and the ministers Meritxell Serret, Toni Comin, Lluis Puig and Clara Ponsanti have been granted the right to operate freely by order of the Belgian judge on Sunday. All of them will be able to move unhindered within Belgium and have agreed as a condition that they will attend court if asked. This morning, Puigdemont and his ministers had attended a Belgian police station along with their lawyers after the Belgian prosecutor had received the arrest warrant issued by the judge of the Spanish Court of Justice Carmen Lamela.

It is now up to the Belgian justiciary to examine the case and determine whether there are grounds for extradition, in a process that can be extended for weeks or months. Puigdemon’s Flemish human rights lawyer, Paul Bekaert, explained this week to Belgian television station VRT that he would challenge any request for extradition, arguing that the jail sentences were disproportionate. The Belgian judge who is responsible for the case will have to decide whether Puigdemont and the four government advisers would incur a risk of inhuman or degrading treatment should they be imprisoned in Spain.

The judge is now 15 days to decide. This court must hear from all sides first. In case a decision is made to extradite them, there would still be another possibility of appeal that would send the case to the Court of Cassation.

In any case, the democratically elected leaders of the Republic of Catalunya will be free to conduct their business for at minimum another month. The jailed ministers in Madrid however, are at the mercy of the Spanish judicial system and are not likely to see fair treatment.

Spanish Artists Face Jail for ‘Subverting the Constitution’

The Colectivo La Insurgencia brings together twelve young people around a microphone. They rap and they do it with rage, with force and with gusto. They rap about their problems and the frustration of a generation with an unclear future. The youngest of them is 20 years old.. Most have never met in person. They hooked up on social media and decided to collectivise their music videos under the same brand: La Insurgencia. They were never famous. Not until now perhaps. Their following was niche and modest having only peer to peer recommendation to spread their word.

Right now (02/11/17) the National Court is threatening each of them with two years and one day in prison, 9 years of disqualification from public office and a fine of €4,800. They are accused of the “crime of glorifying terrorism.”

According to the letter from the public prosecutor José Perals Calleja, the group “almost systematically extols the clandestine breakaway organization from the official Communist Party, the PCE (Reconstructo) and the anti fascist resistance group GRAPO” and the message of its songs “maintains a subversive tone against the constitutional order”.

Young rapper Saul Zaitsev (artist name), is 20 years old and argues that the prosecutor has it quite deliberately wrong. Considering that they have selected isolated phrases from their songs to paint a picture of something violent. He also reminds Público that he has written songs warning young people of the dangers of drug abuse and that his work has been said to have saved the lives of at least some of the troubled youths who attend his own school today. On Thursday (02/11/17) and Friday (03/11/17) this week the National Court will make a decision that will affect every one of these 12 artists for the rest of their lives.

“The Office of the Prosecutor intends to take lines and phrases completely out of context from our songs, as if it were a political speech or a rally. A song has to be understood within the context of the album and within the whole genre.” Certain phrases may sound aggressive, but no one can go to The jail for making songs in bad taste, or so I thought until now, “Saúl explains in a telephone conversation with Público.

In fact, Saúl dmaintains that his music is neither aggressive nor violent.

“You have to get that we sing hip hop, which is a genre that must transmit angst and anger, and I believe that we transmit the frustration and powerlessness that I believe a large part of our generation lives with, with no future prospects, youth unemployment … We let that frustration escape through our music, others do it through graffiti or I do not know,” he continues.

Saúl is facing two years in incarceration for, amongst others, the following lyrics:

– “Since we read the game we have it clear, the word is a weapon, our rap shot, but we know that the fight is in the street brother.”

– “We are not artists, we are fighters, we are not lyricists, we are agitators, we are militants awakening minds”.

“My heroes are not capos, my heroes are GRAPOS”.

– “Happy when you play in the town square Letizia Ortiz (Queen of Spain)”

That the Office of the Prosecutor of the National Court wants to put the La Insurgencia collective behind bars is an “absurdity and immense disproportion” for Saúl. “How are we going to address an act of terrorism that hasn’t happened? What do we exalt?” Asks the 20-year-old, who throws the question into the air about what this State or this country would gain with them inside the prison.

“My music is not a crime and I do not think anyone has been encouraged to commit crimes after listening to me, expresses opinions, with which you can agree or disagree, but which are shared by many here in my neighborhood and in the surrounding areas in which hang around, “says Saul.

The Platform in Defense of Freedom of Information (PDLI) considers that the trial of the twelve rappers of La Insurgencia in the National Court for its lyrics is a…

“new violation of freedom of expression and a violation of this fundamental right, contrary to the international standards to which Spain is subject, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.”

The issue here is the ‘rule of law’ in Spain and what that really means. As it goes, Spain has form here and there is a reasonable list of those who have been incarcerated for speaking out against the state and the monarchy. Rapper Josef Miquel Arenas from Mallorca is facing 3 years in jail for criticism the former King of Spain Juan Carlos.

Catalan Parliament Declares Independence

Resolution declaring independent Catalan republic passed with 70 votes in favor, 10 against and 2 abstentions.

Catalan Parliament has declared independence. In an historic plenary session after weeks of tensions with the Spanish government, and before the Senate votes on the suspension of self-rule, Catalan MPs passed a resolution that makes effective the electoral mandate of the October 1 referendum.

“We hereby constitute the Catalan Republic as an independent, sovereign, legal, democratic, socially-conscious state”,

…reads the declaration. Independence has been declared at 3.30pm with 70 votes in favor, 10 against and 2 abstentions.

A Brief History of Catalunya

What follows is a brief outline of Catalan history compiled quite hurriedly from notes I made whilst living and working in Spain where I was repeatedly exposed – over and over again – to a pseudo history of a forever unified Spain where Catalunya had barely ever existed. This is not and was never intended to be a comprehensive account of the events that brought Catalunya to the current situation of UDI. It is merely a write up of some of my notes to help people make sense of the historical context to the conflict. It is intended to be brief and to the point.

In 1469 Isobel the Catholic married Ferdinand of Aragon. Spain was not in the least unified when they got married. It was a dynastic marriage. Ferdinand was the Count of Barcelona and in fact he was more important as the Count of Barcelona than he ever was as King of Aragon. The two areas maintained their own language, laws, customs, currency, cuisines, town planning, architecture, tariff customs and duties between each other. The idea of half a millennium of unified Spain is a myth propagated by a centralist and unionist Spanish establishment for political ends.

In the late 17th century Europe began a process of nation state building and the Castillanos too began to do this. Their two problems were the Portuguese to the west who had gained their independence after the war of Aljubarrota 1385 and the Catalans to the east . This came to head when the Castillanos opted to have a centralist king, a view opposed in Catalunya where a more federalist figurehead was desired. The Bourbons and the Hapsbergs fought for several years ending with the two year siege of Barcelona. Catalunya was finally subdued on 11th September 1714. Today Catalans remember this day as La Diada.

In the 19th century Catalunya – now forcibly a member of the Spanish state – was despised by the Castellanos for their retention of Catalan identity, language laws and customs. Throughout the century the Castellanos passed many laws and decrees to try and coerce the Catalans to become Spaniards. In 1881 any legal document written in Catalan from a testament to a train ticket was declared officially null and void. In 1896 it became illegal to speak Catalan in public places and on the recently invented telephone. The overwhelming majority of Catalans at that time spoke no Spanish at all. In 1923 all road and street signs had to be in Spanish and teachers caught using Catalan to monolingual children were sacked on the spot.

In 1924 the esteemed architect Antonio Gaudi was arrested for speaking Catalan. When asked why he refused to speak Spanish and whether or not he was able to, Gaudi – a middle class and educated man – replied, “Of course I can speak Spanish, I just don’t want to”. He was then taken away and thrown into a police cell where he was threatened with a beating. Gaudi was an old man of 72 years at this time. So there we have an idea of a conflict that permeates into today’s situation but has a very strong historical background.

In 1907 one newspaper headline read, ‘Catalunya must be Castillianised’. It continued, ‘…People there must speak in Spanish, think in Spanish and behave like Spaniards whether they wish to or not!’ This is still the attitude of some very powerful people working within the centralised Spanish media and centralised Spanish government on both left and right which is why the problem persists such as it is today.

In the early 1930s a brief moment of democracy shone a little light of hope of a way forward when the Catalans managed, democratically to restore their government which had been taken from them forcibly in 1714. This lasted for six years until the fascist dictatorship of Franco took over after the civil war. For the following thirty eight years under Franco the Catalan experience would intensify markedly in terms of the use of their own native tongue. One could be arrested, beaten and imprisoned for merely chatting to people on their own street. There are documented cases of people being thrown off of moving trams for speaking Catalan and assaults on little children for the same natural act.

In a seemingly benevolent move from the post dictatorship government autonomy was granted to Catalunya in 1979 a year after the drafting of the Spanish constitution. This however, was vastly undermined by the granting of autonomy to a further eighteen more areas, most of whom didn’t and still don’t want it. Anything to make sure that Catalunya would never be seen as a separate nation within the nation state of Spain. The logic also extends to lessening the case for increased autonomy as the argument becomes clouded and distorted when the various other autonomies are dragged into any reasonable discussion on the matter.

It’s all a wonderful way for the Spanish central government to have its cake and eat it because if the Catalan government does anything that the Madrid government doesn’t like, they just put in a decree and try to change it from central government. It’s not federalism, it’s not even really autonomy. This highly unsatisfactory situation of haggling and argument has only served to make a great many lawyers rich from both the Spanish and Catalan people’s money.

The Catalan Declaration of Independence

The following is Dr Mark McNaught’s unofficial translation of the Catalan Declaration of independence signed on 10th October in the Catalan Parliament. It has not yet been officially published, seeking to give time for mediation with the Spanish government.

DECLARATION OF THE REPRESENTATIVES OF CATALONIA

To the people of Catalonia and all the peoples of the world.

The bases of the constitution of the Catalan Republic are justice and intrinsic individual and collective human rights, being irrenunciable foundations which give meaning to the historical legitimacy and the legal and institutional traditions of Catalonia.

The Catalan nation, its language and its culture have a thousand years of history. For centuries, Catalonia has been endowed with and enjoyed its own institutions that have fully exercised self-government, with the Generalitat as the greatest expression of the historic rights of Catalonia. During periods of freedom, Parliamentarism has been the pedestal upon which these institutions have been based, channeled through the Catalan Parliaments and crystalized in the Constitutions of Catalonia.

Having been lost and longed for, today Catalonia restores its full sovereignty after decades of honestly and loyally seeking institutional coexistence with the people of the Iberian Peninsula.

Since the adoption of the Spanish Constitution of 1978, Catalan politics has played a key role with an exemplary, loyal and democratic attitude towards Spain, with a deep sentiment of being part of the State.

The Spanish State has responded to this loyalty with the denial of the recognition of Catalonia as a nation; and has granted limited autonomy, more administrative than political, and in the process of re-centralization; excercising a profoundly unjust economic treatment in addition to linguistic and cultural discrimination.

The Statute of Autonomy, approved by the Catalan Parliament, the Spanish Parliament, and the Catalan citizenry in a referendum, was to be the new stable and lasting framework for bilateral relations between Catalonia and Spain. But it was a political agreement broken by the ruling of the Constitutional Court, engendering new grievances among citizens.

Channeling the demands of a large majority of citizens of Catalonia; the Parliament, the Government and civil society have repeatedly called for the holding of a referendum on self-determination.

Upon finding that the institutions of the State have rejected any negotiation, they have violated the principles of democracy and autonomy, and have ignored the legal mechanisms available in the Constitution. The Generalitat of Catalunya has therefore called for a referendum to exercise the right to self-determination recognized under international law.

The organization and holding of the referendum led to the suspension of self-government in Catalonia and the de facto application of a state of emergency.

The brutal police operation of a military nature and style orchestrated by the Spanish state against Catalan citizens has repeatedly and severely violated their civil and political liberties and principles of Human Rights, and has contravened international agreements signed and ratified by the Spanish state.

Thousands of people have been investigated, detained, tried, questioned and threatened with harsh prison sentences, including hundreds of elected and institutional officials and professionals linked to the the sectors of communications, administration, and civil society.

Spanish institutions, which should remain neutral, protect fundamental rights and arbitrate political conflict, have become part and instrument of these attacks and have left the citizens of Catalonia unprotected.

In spite of the violence and the repression to try to prevent a democratic and peaceful process, the citizens of Catalonia have voted mostly in favor of the constitution of the Catalan Republic.

The constitution of the Catalan Republic is based on the need to protect the freedom, security, and coexistence of all citizens of Catalonia, and to move towards a state based on the rule of law and a democracy of greater quality, and respond to the Spanish State impeding the enforcement of the right to self-determination of peoples.

The people of Catalonia are lovers of law, and respect for the law is and will be a cornerstone of the Republic. The Catalan state will meet and legally comply with all the provisions that make up this declaration and ensure that the legal security and maintenance of the subscribed agreements will be part of the founding spirit of the Catalan Republic.

The constitution of the Republic is a hand extended to dialogue. In honor of the Catalan tradition of the pact, we maintain our commitment to agreements as a way of resolving political conflicts. At the same time, we reaffirm our fraternity and solidarity with the rest of the people of the world and, especially, those with whom we share the language and culture and the Euro-Mediterranean region in defense of individual and collective freedoms.

The Catalan Republic is an opportunity to correct the current democratic and social deficits and build a society which is more prosperous, fairer, more secure, more sustainable and with more solidarity.

By virtue of all that has just been presented, WE, the democratic representatives of the people of Catalonia, in the free exercise of the right of self-determination, and in accordance with the mandate received from the citizens of Catalonia:

CONSTITUTE the Catalan Republic, as an independent and sovereign State based on law, democracy, and social welfare.

ENTER into force the Llei de transitorietat jurídica i fundacional de la República.

INITIATE the constituent process which shall be democratic, citizen-based, transversal, participatory and binding.

AFFIRM the desire to open negotiations with Spain without any preconditions, aimed at establishing a collaborative system for the benefit of both parties. The negotiations shall necessarily be on an equal basis.

INFORM the international community and the authorities of the European Union of the constitution of the Catalan Republic and the proposal for negotiations with Spain.

URGE the international community and the European Union authorities to intervene to stop the continued violation of civil and political rights, and to monitor and oversee the negotiation process with the Spanish State.

EXPRESS the desire to build a European project that reinforces the social and democratic rights of citizens, as well as commiting to continue to apply without the solution of continuity and in a unilateral manner the norms of the legal orders of the European Union, the Spanish State, and the Catalan autonomy that transpose this norm.

AFFIRM that Catalonia has the unequivocal desire to integrate into the international community as quickly as possible. The new State agrees to respect the international obligations that are currently applied in its territory and continue to adhere to the international treaties to which the Kingdom of Spain is signator.

APPEAL to all States and international organizations to recognize the Catalan Republic as an independent and sovereign State.

URGE the Government of the Generalitat to adopt the measures necessary to fully enact this Declaration of independence and the provisions of the Llei de transitorietat jurídica i fundacional de la República.

CALL on all and each of the citizens of the Catalan Republic to make us worthy of the freedom that we have granted ourselves and to build a State that translates collective aspirations into action and conduct.

The legitimate representatives of the people of Catalonia:
Barcelona, ​​October 10, 2017

President of Catalunya’s Statement

Carles Puigdemont, President of Catalunya: 10/10/17

“I want to follow people’s will for Catalonia to become an independent state.

We propose to suspend the effect of the independence declaration… in order to work towards putting into practice the result of the referendum… Today, we are making a gesture of responsibility in favour of dialogue.

I am not making any threats, any insults. We are all responsible for this. We need de-escalate the situation, not feed it any longer. I want to address everyone about the issue. We are all part of the same community and we need to go forward together. We will never agree on everything, but we have proved many times that the only way to move forward is with democracy and peace.

That requires dialogue, not the violence that was seen during the referendum.

I want to explain now why we are here. I think we should explain ourselves. Since the death of the dictator Franco, Catalonia has contributed massively to Spanish democracy. Catalonia thought the 1978 Spanish constitution could be a good platform for democracy, and got involved. But later, we realised that the Spanish authorities were seeing this as the final target, but for us, it was a transition.
In 2005, 85% of this parliament, following the procedures that the constitution establishes, approved a new statue for Catalonia, and that triggered a massive anti-Catalan campaign by the people that want to govern and dominate Spain at any price.

We are not criminals, we are not mad. We are normal people, and we just want to vote.

We have been ready to talk and have dialogue. We have nothing against Spain. We want to have a better understanding with Spain. The relationship hasn’t been working for many years, and now it’s unsustainable.”