Today, Sunday, came the news that the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has been arrested by German police acting on a European warrant issued by the Spanish authorities. Puigdemont had fled to Belgium after Spain announced that it was seeking to arrest him and members of his pro-independence government. Spain filed an international arrest warrant against him, but he appealed the warrant in the Belgian courts because Spain had charged him with rebellion, a crime which does not exist in Belgium. This resulted in the Spanish authorities withdrawing the warrant. As the warrant had been withdrawn, he felt free to travel elsewhere in Europe, however the Spanish authorities reactivated the warrant upon hearing that he was in Finland. He was rearrested on his return to Belgium as he was travelling through Germany.
The Catalan digital newspaper Vilaweb is reporting that leaders of Junts Pel Sí, the leading Catalan pro-independence party, are calling for the use of all mechanisms in order to prevent the extradition of Puigdemont. It is thought likely that an appeal will be made against the extradition request and it will be fought all the way through the German courts to the highest possible level. This may be more difficult in Germany than it was in Belgium as unlike in Belgium rebellion is recognised as an offence in Germany.
In a tweet this afternoon, Fransesc de Dalmases of Junts Pel Sí said that Germany now has an opportunity to reconcile its history with Catalonia. Quim Torra Pla, a Junts Pel Sí deputy in the Catalan parliament, said that Puigdemont’s arrest is not just a German matter, but rather it’s the whole European Union which has responsibility now. Meanwhile Carles Riera, who is a deputy in the Catalan parliament for the pro-independence CUP said, “Let’s hope that the German state demonstrates a truly democratic will and not repressive and anti-democratic connivance with the Spanish state.”
The Asamblea Nacional Catalana has called for a demonstration outside the offices of the delegation of the European Commission in Barcelona to protest the arrest of the former president. Demonstrations are also being planned in Tarragona, Lleida, and Girona. Another 500 demonstrators assembled on Sunday afternoon in Place de Schuman in Brussels, outside the seat of the European Commission.
Puigdemont’s arrest follows the imprisonment of a number of other senior Catalan politicians, including the former vice president Oriol Junqueras and the former minister of the interior Joaquim Form who have been in prison since the second of November on a charge of rebellion. The former speaker of the Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell, was imprisoned on the same charge on Friday. Two senior figures in the broader independence movement, Jordi Sànchez of the Asamebla Nacional Catalana and Jordi Cuixart of the cultural organisation Òmnium Cultural have been in jail since October last year. Amnesty International has described the imprisonment of Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart as excessive and disproportionate. Both have been charged with rebellion and sedition.
The Spanish Supreme Court is now pursuing charges of rebellion, misuse of public funds (because of spending on the Catalan referendum), and disobedience (a charge roughly similar to contempt of court) against 25 senior figures in the Catalan independence movement. The Spanish Supreme Court is acting against the Catalan independence movement because, according to Judge Pablo Llarena, they were warned of the risk of violence if they proceeded with the referendum, but went ahead with it anyway. Think about that for a moment, the Spanish Supreme Court is prosecuting the leaders of the Catalan independence movement because they were warned of the risk of violence from the Spanish state. Officers of the Spanish paramilitary Guardia Civil under the control of the Spanish interior ministry in Madrid were responsible for the violence, but it’s the victims of that violence who are facing court action because of it. It’s like the story of the man who was charged with damaging police property because a policeman scuffed his boot after kicking the man in the head.
In a sign of the growing anger amongst some sections of the Catalan independence movement, Judge Llarena’s home in the Catalan region of Cerdanya has been targetted by members of Arran (meaning ‘level with’ in Catalan, not a reference to the Scottish island!) the youth organisation of the pro-independence left. The street outside Llarena’s home in the village of Das has been painted with graffiti calling the judge a fascist, and saying “Llarena, fascist, not in Das, not anywhere” and “Liberty for political prisoners.”
One of those facing prosecution is Clara Ponsatí, who was the Catalan education minister. She is currently in Scotland, where she had a post at the University of St Andrews before being appointed to Carles Puigdemont’s government. She fled to Belgium along with Puigdemont, and later returned to Scotland. According to reports, she is now also facing a European arrest warrant and Spain is seeking her arrest and extradition. The Spanish press reported yesterday (Saturday) that the Office of the Procurator Fiscal has acknowledged that it has received the European warrant against her, but in a statement to the Spanish media said that it would be inappropriate to comment further.
Speaking in an interview with the Catalan television channel TV3 on Saturday, Clara Ponsatí commented that she had believed that Spain would react with a lot of violence and said that the actions of the Spanish state were provoking fear amongst some pro-independence politicians and affecting their activities in parliament. “We have received a great thumping,” she said, “We have to recognise that after the huge success of the 1st of October the rest has been a great setback and it will cost us to recover.”
She denied the accusation that the Catalan parliament had disobeyed the Spanish courts, saying, “What does it mean to disobey? The Parliament never disobeys. We are accepting the language which is being imposed on us by the authoritarianism of the Spanish state and the courts.” She added that she was at the disposition of the legal authorities in the UK, and was confident that she would not be extradited because the warrant against her was politically motivated.
On Sunday morning Police Scotland tweeted, “We can confirm that we are in possession of a European arrest warrant for Clara Ponsati. We have made a number of enquiries to try to trace her and have now been contacted by her solicitor, who is making arrangements for Ms Ponsati to hand herself into police.”
Meanwhile in the UK we have discovered that Scotland, which voted to remain in the EU by a very large margin, is being taken out of Europe on the basis of a majority vote in the rest of the UK that was achieved illegally by campaigning groups which allegedly broke electoral law and who based their campaigns on lies and false promises. Does this invalidate the result of the EU referendum? In any normal world it would. Does that mean that the UK government will have to run the referendum again? Will it buggery. The British government is going to continue with its reckless wrecking path to a senseless Brexit, and will continue to use something that the people of Scotland voted against in order to destroy the devolution settlement, something that the people of Scotland voted for.
We may not be facing the overt oppression that Catalonia is struggling with, but democracy in Scotland is every bit as threatened. The Spanish government is using the courts to tackle what is a political problem, and with the recent decision of the UK government to challenge the Scottish Parliament’s EU Continuity Bill in the courts, the British government seems determined to follow a similar path. We have to demonstrate our opposition using every legal means, and we must demonstrate our solidarity with Catalonia. The only way to defend Scottish democracy is with Scottish independence.
The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.
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