Thursday, 15 December 2016

Thousands hit the streets to defend Forcadell, prosecution provokes international outrage

CNA / Sara Prim

Barcelona (CNA).- The Spanish Government’s prosecution of Parliament’s President, Carme Forcadell, for allowing the debate on Catalonia’s independence in the Catalan Chamber continues to produce international reaction. Besides the motion tabled by a group of 15 MPs in the British House of Commons and the Irish republican party Sinn Féin’s rejection of the trial of Forcadell, politicians in other European countries such as Germany have also criticised Spain’s response to Catalonia’s pro-independence aspirations. The German social-democrat Bernhard von Grünberg, member of the Rhine–North Westphalia Parliament, addressed a letter to Angela Merkel’s government, together with the federal Parliaments and the European Chamber claiming that the Spanish Government “is more anti-democratic each day” and that it “refuses to dialogue” with the Catalan institutions. Civil society associations have called on citizens to hit the streets in Catalonia to support Forcadell and the Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, has also emphasised his solidarity with the Parliament’s President. “This is not a trial against a person, it is a trail against an institution which represents the will of the Catalan people”, he said.

Thousands of citizens have expressed their support for Parliament’s President at several mobilisations held this Thursday throughout Catalonia. One of the main rallies took place on Barcelona’s Sant Jaume Square, which is between the Catalan Government’s headquarters, Palau de la Generalitat, and the Catalan capital’s City Hall.

Institutional support

“This is not a trial against a person, it is a trail against an institution which represents the will of the Catalan people”, stated Puigdemont. Thus, he expressed his “full support” for Forcadell, who will appear before Catalonia’s Supreme Court (TSJC) for allegedly violating the Spanish Constitution by allowing Catalan MPs to debate the merits of the pro-independence roadmap. According to Puigdemont, Forcadell’s prosecution is similar to that suffered by former Catalan President, Artur Mas, and former Catalan Ministers Irene Rigau, Francesc Homs and Joana Ortega for allowing the 9-N symbolic vote on independence in 2014. 

Former Parliament Presidents, Joan Rigol, Ernest Benach and Núria de Gispert, have also expressed their support for their colleague. “Carme, I would have done the same”, each of them cries out in video campaign aimed to call for mobilisation against the prosecution of the Parliament’s President.

International support

Forcadell's counterpart in the Welsh Parliament, Elin Jones expressed her "solidarity" with her "for allowing a democratic debate in the Chamber she presided". Jones posted it in Catalan on her Twitter profile. 

Earlier this week, a group of 15 MPs from the Scottish National Party (SNP), the Plaid Cymru, the Irish Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and the Labour Party tabled an ‘Early Day Motion’ in the House of Commons expressing concern over the prosecution of the Parliament’s President, Carme Forcadell. The document, promoted by SNP MP, George Kerevan notes that Forcadell “allegedly violated Spanish law” for “allowing a parliamentary debate” on independence. A situation which “regardless of the constitutional legalities involved” the signers find “regrettable” and warn may set “a dangerous precedent”. Therefore, the motion calls for the Spanish Government “to reconsider the prosecution” and find “a resolution to its disagreement with the Catalan Parliament through mutual dialogue”. Moreover, Kerevan nuanced in a press statement that Forcadell “did not use her position as Speaker to advocate a position on Catalan independence” but “merely facilitated the democratic process” in a parliament “where there is a clear majority for holding a referendum on independence”. In the following days, support for the motion increased amongst MPs.

Kerevan pointed out that Forcadell’s “crime” is “merely facilitating a democratic process” and “allowing a parliamentary debate on independence”. “Whatever your view on the matter, this seems like a clear case of free speech and such a trial would only create ill-feeling in Catalonia”, he stated.

The SNP MP also nuanced that Forcadell “did not use her position as Speaker to advocate a position on Catalan independence” and that for her to be in court for this and to face a fine is something that should concern all democrats”.

The promotor of the motion also emphasised “the exceptional speed at which the case against Forcadell is being pursued” and called for the Spanish Government “which brought this case to trial” to “reconsider the prosecution and to seek a resolution of its disagreements with the Catalan Parliament through mutual dialogue”.

The Foreign Affairs spokesperson of Irish Republicans Sinn Féin, Seán Crowe, called for the Spanish executive to “reconsider” its position “even at this late stage” and “stop the proceedings” against Forcadell. According to the Irish politician, the Spanish authorities “cannot stifle, ignore, or ban the democratic demands” of the Catalan people and he lamented that the Parliament’s President could be fined and banned from public office for “allegedly violating Spanish law by allowing a Parliamentary debate on altering the Spanish Constitution, in relation to Catalan independence”. Forcadell “is somehow seen to be guilty of a crime by the Spanish authorities” and “could be subject to debarment from public office and a personal fine”, emphasised Crowe. “This is hugely concerning, is an attack on democracy, and sets a dangerous precedent”, he added and emphasised that prosecuting Forcadell “for facilitating a debate on such an important and popular issue puts at risk the very democratic standards that people hold dear throughout the world”, he added.

The German social-democrat Bernhard von Grünberg, member of the Rhine–North Westphalia Parliament, also reported the prosecution of Forcadell and the Spanish Government’s judicial response to Catalonia’s pro-independence roadmap. In a letter to different German political leaders, von Grünberg reported to Angela Merkel’s government, together with the federal Parliaments and the European Chamber that the Spanish Government “is more anti-democratic each day” and that it “systematically fights” Catalonia’s democratic aspirations and has “refused to dialogue”. According to von Grünberg, the prosecution against Forcadell and that of the judge Santiago Vidal, banned from office for writing a draft of a hypothetical Catalan Constitution, prove “the rise of deliberate aggression carried out by the Spanish Government”.

Thus, he called for the Bundestag president, Norbert Lammert, and that of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, “to take a stance” in order to prevent Spain “from losing its democracy” as has happened in other countries. He also lamented that the Spanish Constitutional Court “should be independent” rather than have its members appointed by political parties.

The Danish Parliament also asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Anders Samuelseon to take up a stance regarding Forcadell's prosecution and decide within a week whether the trial is against the petition made be the Danish Parliament which called for a democratic debate between Catalonia and Spain. 

  • Mobilitzacio_forcadell

  • Hundreds of people gathered together in Tarragona to protest against Forcadell's prosecution (by ACN)