By Matt Carthy MEP.
The leaders of the EU Commission and member states, along with the majority of MEPs, remain totally silent in the face of the political trial of 12 Catalan social and political leaders in Spain’s Supreme Court, which began today.
Some of the defendants face up to 25 years in jail for the alleged offences of disobedience, rebellion, sedition, criminal conspiracy and misuse of public funds – all for organising a democratic vote on Catalonia’s independence from Spain in October 2017.
This is the first of three political trials, and nine of these 12 defendants – government ministers (including two former MEPs), Catalan parliamentarians and social movement leaders – have been in preventive detention for more than a year. I visited several of the prisoners in jail in November last year.
The former head of the Catalan police force José Lluís Trapero will face a future trial in Spain’s National High Court, while the Catalan MPs who facilitated the parliamentary discussion and vote on the declaration of independence on October 2017 will face trial in the Catalan High Court. The 12 currently on trial have charges brought against them by three prosecution teams – the prosecutor-general, the solicitor-general and the ultra-right neo-Francoist party, Vox.
Every month the European Parliament votes on resolutions condemning governments for alleged human rights violations in far-flung places on the other side of the world. But when it comes to the serious breaches of the fundamental rights of people in Catalonia, the EU leaders and institutions are deathly silent. This hypocrisy is just sickening.
If what is happening in Spain today was instead occurring in a South American country the condemnation of EU leaders would be deafening. Their silence as political and social leaders in Europe face up to 25 years in jail for organising a democratic vote is shameful and inexcusable.
Every time he is questioned on Catalonia, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says this is an internal matter for Spain. He even goes beyond that and threatens the Catalan people that a new independent state would find itself outside of the EU.
In response to the vicious attacks on defenceless people in a member state of the EU on the day of the referendum, Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans appeared before the Parliament to label the vote illegal, and to justify the brutal violence by saying, “It is a duty for any government to uphold the law, and this sometimes does require the proportionate use of force”.
When the Catalan government declared independence in accordance with the results of the referendum, and the mandate on which it was elected, the Spanish state responded by jailing the members of the government, dissolving the elected parliament and pursuing the elected President of Catalonia, who had sought refuge in Belgium, for extradition.
These are the not the actions of a democratic, legitimate government in an EU that is supposed to be based on the values of democracy, human rights and freedom of expression; these are the actions of an authoritarian regime.
The steamrolling of the elected Catalan government was met by the EU’s defence of the Spanish government, and deference to the Spanish position.
Now as the show trials begin, we have yet more silence from Europe. The fact that the majority of MEPs are silent when it comes to the potential political jailing of two former members of the European Parliament – Oriol Junqueras and Raül Romeva, facing 25 years and 16 years in prison respectively – is shocking.
This is a failure of leadership by the EU Commission and the European Parliament on an unprecedented scale, and it undermines the legitimacy and credibility of the entire European Union.
People from across Ireland and Europe need to stand in solidarity with the people of Catalonia in this struggle. In the face of such indefensible silence from the EU, we will make our voices heard throughout these sham show trials and demand that those in power in Brussels and Madrid take note.
Matt Carthy is a Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West constituency. You can visit his website here and follow him on Twitter @mattcarthy.
More information on who is facing trial and what charges have been laid is available here.
A live blog in English covering the trial, ‘Catalonia on Trial: The Spanish State vs. the Catalan 12’, is available here.