Aamer Anwar, has become a well-known figure in Catalonia. He has been highly critical of the Spanish legal system, which he says is stuck in the Francoist past. He is also the lawyer of exiled former minister, Clara Ponsatí (pictured below).
What do you think about the trial of independence leaders, is it a humiliation?
Not a humiliation because the leaders have at all times acted with dignity and courage, but it shows that the trial is judicial vengeance.
Is it important for the world to remember the referendum?
The world should be ashamed by its silence. Our first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has given her support, but the rest of Europe’s silence makes it an accomplice of the repression.
What strategy do those in exile follow while the trial goes on?
Agitating, protesting, being united and calling for independence. If the world doesn’t want to look, then we have to make it look, because what genuinely scares Spain are the Catalan people. You could see that in the violent reaction to October 1.
Will it be a fair trial?
International observers have not been accepted and they say the live broadcasts are enough, but that’s not true. We lawyers know that important things take place in courtrooms when the cameras are off. They have not admitted most of the defence’s witnesses. They rejected United Nations experts on freedom of expression. Also the Ombudsman, Rafel Ribó. And Carles Puigdemont. They have even excluded Nobel prizewinners. They have not accepted the images of October 1 but have allowed the testimony of police officers. They are on trial with one hand tied behind their backs.
What does the trial mean for the independence bid?
Spain set a trap and Catalonia fell for it. The independence debate has ended since there have been political prisoners. And that’s understandable, because the imprisonment of politicians has upset many Catalans. It plays with people’s feelings, but I think that right now the two things need to take separate paths: one path is the release of the prisoners, and the other is the path to independence.
And what about Europe’s role?
Catalonia has to stop trusting Europe. It’s true that in the corridors European politicians show their shock about what is happening in Spain, but the EU is not taking any action, on the contrary, it’s letting Spain do what it wants. Their silence makes them accomplices. It’s true they are worried, because in the 21st century the conflict is not being resolved with dialogue and we have seen violence used and the imprisonment of peaceful people who merely obeyed their democratic mandate. Spain is treating Catalonia as if it were its last colony. It has the soul of a colonialist power, like the United Kingdom. Catalonia is looking towards Europe and that is a mistake. For example, it makes no sense having one, two or even five MEPs on your side. It may have symbolic value, but in practice it serves no purpose.
Scotland got to vote in a referendum...
Yes! And the result was a rejection of independence. That’s democracy. Can you imagine the first minister of Scotland or her government being jailed for calling a vote?
What was the power of October 1?
It’s the only time Spain has feared Catalonia. When people of all ages showed they weren’t afraid, that they wanted to cast their votes. And they also put their bodies on the line. That was when Spain showed its true face and lost the plot with the world watching. The images of October 1 did a lot of damage to its image. When you see the images on television it could be anywhere in the world, but not in Europe right now.
What should the strategy be now?
Spain is beating Catalonia in the game and doing so with a trial of political prisoners to win time. How long will the trial take? They could spend five years in prison. Or two. Or ten. Even if it’s only one day it seems too much, because they have committed no crime and are not guilty. I think Catalonia will have to wait until the sentencing to rethink a strategy to react to the attack by the Spanish state. And that makes sense, because people are bewildered by the trial. Meanwhile, the public is demobilising, as it has no direction from politicians. I doubt we’ll see over a million people on the streets, like on the last National Day. The political prisoners will be free when Catalonia is free. It seems like the independence parties are more interested in fighting each other for seats rather than the mandate they were given by the people of Catalonia. Spain thinks it can see things out. It’s a ploy of colonialist regimes. Unity begins to fracture, and that’s a tactic that the Spanish state has studied.
Not even talks with the Socialists?
Pedro Sánchez is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. In Scotland and England people thought that with a Socialist in government the situation would get better, but that has not been the case. He does not want dialogue; that’s not his goal. Where Catalonia is concerned there are no such things as socialists, all are on the far right on this issue. It’s not the politicians who are in charge in Spain. It’s clear the judges are in charge, that politicians like Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Casado are puppets of the judiciary, which is making all the decisions. Spain doesn’t want to talk and never will. Over hundreds of years, Catalonia has not managed to hold any sort of dialogue. Why should that change now? Catalonia is making the same mistakes as always. People are waiting to learn whether Spain will listen... whether it will allow a referendum. That’s what the Spanish state wants because that wastes time.
The private prosecutor in the trial is the far-right Vox party.
Where do you see a far-right party acting as a private prosecutor? It makes no sense why it is helping the public prosecutor, nor why it’s not been excluded from the case. The trial is Spain’s vengeance against Catalonia.
Is there separation of powers in Spain?
There’s political persecution and an obvious lack of impartiality. You can see a desire for judicial revenge. I’m amazed that someone can go to prison for more than 30 years for letting people vote in a self-determination referendum. At the same time, you remain free if you are a corrupt politician or, as long as you wear a uniform, you can carry on with normal life even after raping someone.
Has Spain effectively taken hostages?
It’s as if a gangster went to your house and kidnapped your family at gunpoint. And Spain has made it clear that it is not interested in negotiating. There is no room for naivety, wondering what Spain will do. There is no individual more important than the cause of independence, and if you look at the history of Catalonia, nine of eleven Catalan presidents have been imprisoned, exiled or executed. Franco remains alive in the state’s structures, but it is the people of Catalonia who have the power. They can’t lock up a million and a half people! The problem is that right now the Spanish state is making Catalans afraid. And this fear is a mistake that could have a cost for generations to come. It’s the same fear people lived with in the time of Franco.