The case of the four imprisoned Catalan politicians and civic leaders is, slowly but surely, garnering more international attention. Last month, lawyers working out of London, Barcelona and Paris - including the prestigious human rights lawyer Ben Emmerson QC - reported the prisoners’ plight to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, describing the charges of violent rebellion and sedition against these declaredly pacifist men as ’unsustainable’. Amnesty International has demanded the immediate release of the two civic leaders (one of whom was recently denied his freedom because ’he maintains his pro-independence ideas’ in the words of Pablo Llarena, the Supreme Court magistrate who is dealing with the case). He used a similar excuse earlier in the case of former interior minister Joaquim Forn, who has renounced all political activity, but not his independentist beliefs). That the world should know that Catalan leaders are being kept in stir just because they think differently from what Madrid deems acceptable for them to think, is all to the good. But other, less broadcast things are happening which indicate a deeper and perhaps more disturbing level of repression. Towards the end of last year, a schoolteacher from the town of Tremp, near the Catalan Pyrenees, was arrested on a charge of inciting hatred, for having tweeted wicked, wicked things like ’I don’t believe in God… but do believe in hell: hell is Spain’. In January of this year, 13 teachers from a secondary school in Sant Andreu de la Barca, near Barcelona, were given a court summons for having organised a Peace Day in which there was some debate about the wave of police violence during the October 1st referendum. Accused of ’incitement to hatred of the Civil Guard’, their cases remain pending, as do those of scores of other schoolteachers around Catalonia, all arraigned for the same ’hate crime’ because they’d organised similar debates, often at the behest of their students. Odder still is the accusation that the Mayor of Callús, a village of 2,000 inhabitants, ’wilfully disobeyed’ the Civil Guard on October 1st, when there are several videos that show him trying to ask the Civil Guard not to resort to violence, before one of them whacks him to the ground with his shield (police also seized the Mayor’s computer and trashed the local school). But for sheer weirdness it would be difficult to outdo the case of Jordi Perelló, a garage mechanic in the town of Reus, who last month refused to service a Spanish police vehicle, sickened as he was by the uniformed brutality he’d witnessed on October 1st; he was given an express summons to court emanating from Madrid, on a charge of, you guessed it, incitement to hatred of the Spanish police. Altogether, nearly 900 Mayors, teachers, comedians and civilians of all stripes have been judicially investigated for having dared to opine about that day’s officially orchestrated violence. Proof positive, it would not be rash to assume, that the Spanish state is not only in denial, but that it is well and truly off its authoritarian trolley.
- Catalonia Today 04-03-2018 Pàgina 5