Sunday, October 22, 2017

Jurists Manifesto 'A Blow to the Rule of Law'

The undersigned, members of the legal profession, DENOUNCE that the imprisoning of
Messrs. Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart, presidents of ANC (Assemblea Nacional Catalana)
and Òmnium Cultural, respectively, is devoid of any legal basis and results instead from an
ideologically biased abuse of the Law, evidencing among other worrying circumstances a
serious breach of the principle of separation of powers in the Spanish state, a blatantly
partisan stand by the Spanish Attorney General, as well as an infringement of fundamental
rights and a violation of the right to be tried by a legally predetermined judge, all of it in a
context of pervasive disregard for the rule of law.

The provisional incarceration of ANC and Òmnium presidents results from a ruling of the Central Criminal Court (Juzgado Central de Instrucción) nº 3 in Madrid, charging them with sedition. With regard to this ruling, we must STATE: 

1. According to current Spanish criminal law, the facts resulting in this incrimination
cannot possibly be qualified as seditious , but rather as the free exercise of the right of
public manifestation, as stated in article 21 of the Spanish Constitution, which the ruling
clearly transgresses.

2. The Audiencia Nacional (of which the Central Criminal Court nº 3 in Madrid is a
component) is not the competent court on the matter, which should instead be under the jurisdiction of a criminal court in Catalonia. This clearly infringes upon article 24 of the Spanish Constitution, which states the right of defendants to be tried in a court predetermined by law.

3. The conditions established by both the Spanish Code of Criminal Procedure (LECrim) and constitutional jurisprudence for pretrial detention are not fulfilled in the present case, again in a clear breach of article 17 of the Spanish Constitution. The lack of motivation of the ruling is particularly egregious: the court has not proven that a flight risk exists, nor shown by which means would the defendants destroy evidence, nor that there is a threat of reiterated crime, given that the facts under scrutiny simply reflected the voluntary mobilization of thousands of people. 

Thus we cannot but conclude that the imprisonment of Messrs. Sánchez and Cuixart turns
them into POLITICAL PRISONERS and places the Spanish state at the dismal level of
countries routinely infringing upon civil rights for political reasons, or disregarding the
principle of legality, with the result of their being excluded from membership in the
European Union. All this adds upon and aggravates the numerous legal irregularities prior
and following the October 1 referendum.

Therefore, as jurists, we DEMAND full respect for the rights of Messrs. Jordi Sánchez and
Jordi Cuixart , the encroachment of which concerns us all and calls into question the rule of
law in the Spanish state. Hence WE DEMAND THEIR IMMEDIATE FREEDOM.

If you agree with the above, please support this Manifesto-Denounce with your signature, following instructions here.


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450,000 rally in Barcelona for the release of jailed of independence civil leaders


Barcelona's local police numbered in 450,000 the number of people who took to the streets of the city for the release of jailed of independence civil leaders. In fact the demonstration was after the Spanish government announced they would dissolve the Catalonia Regional Government and hold new elections through an Article 155 declaration. But the rally was convoked by the Democracy Table as a protest for the jailing of Jordi Sanchez (Catalan National Assembly President) and Jordi Cuixart (Omnium Cultural). This group was forbidden by Franco's dictator but he never jailed its president. Dictator Rajoy has gone further away than his predecessor. We must remember that the Spanish ruling Popular Party was founded by a Franco's minister, Manuel Fraga.

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Spain announces Madrid's colonial rule in Catalonia

The Catalonia's autonomy is ended. Recovered when Franco died, it will be suspended under the Franco heirs. We must remember that the Spanish ruling Popular Party was founded by a Franco's minister, Manuel Fraga. His direct heir, Mariano Rajoy, is now the Spanish PM who has decided to destroy all that has been done in Catalan self-government last 40 years. It's a coup to a Democratic Government. And as it will be resisted.

Spanish Premier Rajoy has outlined hardhitting plans for direct rule in Catalonia :

- Democratic Catalan Government leaders removed from office, including premier Carles Puigdemont,

Catalan democratic parliament stripped of its power. It cannot decide even its president. Every Catalan law could be vetoed in 30 days for the Spanish Government. Formally although the Catalan parliament will not be dissolved immediately, its functions will be limited to “avoid measures contrary to the Constitution.”

- Madrid direct rule the roles of the Catalan Ministers who had been dismissed would be handled by ministries and officials from Madrid.

Mr Rajoy also confirmed that regional elections would be called, within a period of six months, or “as soon as institutional normality is restored”. Without a clear date it is obvious this is a new lie from Rajoy. Elections can be posponed definitively.

All of these measures  are to be carried out under the unprecedented auspices of Article 155 of the Constitution. This article has never been applied and was written with a lower idea but is been misused by a party who obtained 8,49 % of the votes in last Catalan elections. If a party with 8,49 % of the votes rules against the will of the people... is it Democracy?

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Amnesty International calls for release of Sànchez and Cuixart; opposes charges for sedition and pre-trial detention

On 16 October, a judge of the Audiencia Nacional ordered the pre-trial detention of Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, the presidents, respectively, of the pro-Catalan independence organisations the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Omnium Cultural. They have been charged with sedition under article 544 of the Spanish Criminal Code in connection with protests they organized in Barcelona on 20 and 21 September. Amnesty International calls on Spanish authorities to drop the charges of sedition and to put an immediate end to their pre-trial detention.

Full report (English)

French




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Friday, October 20, 2017

Spain to suspend Catalonia's autonomy in response to the successful democratic referendum

Spain’s central government said on Thursday it would suspend Catalonia’s autonomy and impose direct rule after the democratic referendum of October 1st where a 90 % voted yes for independence. Catalan president announced he will go ahead with a formal declaration of independence if Madrid refused to hold talks. Carles Puigdemont says the result is binding and must be obeyed but hopes Madrid will open dialogue before to vote independence in the Parliament.  “If the government continues to impede dialogue and continues with the repression, the Catalan parliament could proceed, if it is considered opportune, to vote on a formal declaration of independence,” Puigdemont said.

The central government in Madrid on Thursday quickly responded that it would begin the legal procedures to implement Article 155 of the Spain’s 1978 constitution, which allows it to seize control of the regional government, finances and police. Madrid announced a meeting of ministers for an “extraordinary” session on Saturday to approve the measure.
Such a move would be unprecedented in Spain’s 40 years since the end of the Francisco Franco dictatorship and, in fact, will return Catalonia to the Franco's age. Curiously the Spanish parties PP & PSOE who agree to take over Catalan language public media as well as the Catalan police: have only  25 over 135 MPs in Catalonia and 106 over 829 mayors.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

'Help Catalonia, save Europe': Activists' emotional plea as Spain JAILS separatist leaders

President Carles Puigdemont, Vice President Oriol Junqueras and Foreign Minister Raül Romeva gave their backing to a short film by Barcelona-based organisation Òmnium Cultural, which promotes Catalan culture.
The video, entitled "Help Catalonia, Save Europe" features a young woman speaking directly to the camera in English, imploring other European countries not to ignore the savage beatings meted out to Catalonians attempting to vote in the ballot on October 1.
Interspersed with clips of the shocking violence, the woman says: "Spanish officials, including the King, have not condemned the police violence.
"Quite the opposite. They have arrested the two leading civil society figures of the pro-independence movement."

The statement is in reference to the jailing of ANC leader Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, the head of the Omnium Cultural itself, on suspicion of sedition.
The two separatists are accused of organising a pro-independence rally allegedly designed to stop the Civil Guard from interfering in the polls.
"Further crackdowns are threatened if we continue to pursue our freedom," the woman adds.
"We are European citizens just like you, and we need your help to defend democracy and freedom.

"Please, don't look away. What's happening here in Catalonia, is not an internal Spanish affair.
"It concerns each and every European citizen.
"Help Catalonia. Save Europe."
The Catalan government's campaign to break away from Spain has pushed the country into its worst political crisis since a failed coup attempt in 1981.

Source: Express

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Hundreds of thousands of protesters demand release of jailed pro indy civical leaders

Around 200,000 people rallied in Barcelona calling for two pro-independence leaders to be released from jail. A court in Madrid said they implemented a "complex strategy" to push Catalonia towards independence.
Around 200,000 people gathered on Tuesday only in the city of Barcelona to protest against the detention of two pro-Catalan independence leaders on charges of sedition. Organizers said more rallies were planned.
Candle-lit demonstrations were also held in Girona, Reus, Tarragona, Lleida and other Catalan cities in protest at the Madrid-based National Court's Monday ruling to keep Jordi Cuixart, the head of the Catalan National Assembly, and Jordi Sanchez, the leader of the pro-independence organization Omnium Cultural, behind bars pending investigations into sedition charges.
Before the evening protests, Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull said regional ministers would take part, but not Puigdemont. He called on people to remain calm. "It's the best tribute we can offer them," he said, referring to Sanchez and Cuixart.

The judge said both men had used social media to organize protests on September 20-21 to impede police who were trying to dismantle preparations for the October 1 independence referèndum.



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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Help Catalonia, Save Europe

What’s happening here, in Catalonia, is not an internal Spanish affair. It concerns to each and every European citizen.
Share this video with your friends, family and representatives. Now, before it’s too late.
HELP CATALONIA. SAVE EUROPE.
 

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Spain jails two Catalan peaceful pro independence civil leaders

 
A Spanish judge has jailed two key members of the Catalan independence movement.
Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, who lead prominent pro independence groups, are being held without bail while they are under investigation for sedition since yesterday night.
The men were leading figures in the 1 October independence democratic vote..
Their detention led to protests overnight, with more expected across Catalonia on Tuesday.
Mr Sànchez, who heads the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), a pro-independence organisation, and Mr Cuixart, leader of Òmnium Cultural, a pro Catalan culture moviment, appeared before the High Court in Madrid on Monday.
They are being investigated over a protest on 20 September in which a crowd peacefully blocked Civil Guard (Spanish military Police) officers inside a building in Barcelona, Catalonia's capital. There was no a single violence act in that protest and the judge clearly says in her text that they are jailed for promoting the independence of Catalonia.

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Friday, October 6, 2017

The Economist: "Any settlement must include the option of a referendum"

"Whatever the legality of separatism, once the desire for independence reaches a critical point, governments must deal with it in three ways:
crush it, bow to it, or negotiate in good faith, knowing that separation may still be the outcome.

Mr Rajoy has failed to grasp the nature of this choice.
First he blocked the nationalists in the courts, and, last weekend, he resorted to force.
His deployement of policemen to supress the Catalan vote was not only a propaganda gift to them but, more important, crossed a line.
Agression against crowds of peaceful citizens may work in Tibet but cannot be sustained in a Western democracy. In the contest between formal justice and natural justice, natural justice wins eventually every time.
Constitutions serve to serve the citizens, nor the other way around. Rather than uphold the rule of law as he intended, Mr Rajoy ended up tarnishing the ligitimacy of the Spanish rule".

"Any settlement, though, must include the option of a referèndum on independence", says The Economist. The magazine says too that to declare now the independence would be "reckless and irresponsable".  

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Official Results of the Democratic Referendum on Catalonia's Independence

Infographic on the official results of the October 1st referendum in Catalonia
  • YES: 90.18  %
  • NO: 7.83 %
  • White: 1.9%
Results by every village

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Petition to the EU to Condemn the Violence deployed by the Spanish Police in Catalonia

On Sunday 1 October 2017, more than 844 people were injured by the Spanish police forces while they were voting in the referendum for the self-determination of Catalonia, not recognised as legal by the Spanish Government.
Pictures of the police beating violently citizens that wanted to express their opinion peacefully about the independence of Catalonia have toured the world, and are being largely condemned by political, intellectual and social personalities. The commissioner for the Human Rights Council of the United Nations has requested an investigation about the facts occurred that day.
Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union (TEU) states that the Union is based upon values as respect to human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and the respect towards human rights. However, on Sunday 1 October 2017 some of these values were not respected in Catalonia.
Independently from our individual feelings on the Catalan referendum, it is clear that the European institutions cannot omit nor remain silent regarding the generalised violence deployed by the Spanish police. The violence executed by the Spanish police on civil population affects the European values and makes explicit that this is an issue that goes beyond the label of “internal matter”: it is an issue about protection of values, rights and liberties of the European citizenship living in Catalonia.
We, as members of Xarxa d’Entitats Europeistes de Catalunya (XEEC), a network of non-profit organisations committed to the defence of the European project, want to express in this manifesto that:
• We condemn the use of violence and police repression and other coercion methods deployed by the Spanish National Police and the Spanish Civil Guard against the Catalan people on Sunday 1 October 2017. As the spokesperson of the European Commission said on Monday 2 October: “violence can never be a political instrument”.
• We demand a more vehement and robust condemn, against the violence used by the Spanish police on civil population, to the institutions of the European Union and to the different political stakeholders.
• We demand to the EU institutions and to all the different European political stakeholders to advocate for international mediation in order to lower the social and political tension and resolve the current political conflict happening in Spain. We consider that when the people’s will goes beyond the mere rule of law there is a need for political dialogue as a democratic solution to lower the social unrest and to update the law.
• We applaud that there will be a point of the European Parliament’s plenary session of Wednesday 4 October dedicated to what happened in Catalonia the 1 October. We expect this will serve for the institution representing the whole European citizenship to defend it and to condemn the violence deployed by the Spanish police.
Additionally, we also use this manifesto to highline the model behaviour of the Catalan citizenship, who has always acted peacefully.
As signatories of this manifesto, we believe that it is time for the EU to act in order to lower the tension and to avoid greater harm to the Spanish democracy and to the civil population.
The European institutions have the opportunity to approach the European citizenship, especially the Catalan citizenship, by defending political dialogue. They must condemn all sorts of violence, which undermines European foundational values seeking to promote peace in Europe through a closer Union between all European countries. If the EU does not react on this aggression against civilians, it will be in a compromising position before the Catalan people, who has always been pro-European and could become Euro sceptical.

Link

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Thursday, October 5, 2017

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont calls for mediation

President of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont has made a videoed public address which serves as a direct rebuttal of yesterday’s videoed address by Spanish King Felipe VI.
During his short statement, Puigdemont stated that the monarch abrogated his duty to moderate in issues of civil peace and instead simply issued the same anti-Catalan rhetoric as Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who has refused to even acknowledge that an independence referendum was conducted.
Puigdemont then stated that he and the Catalan government are ready for dialogue with Spain and that furthermore, he has received constructive offers of external mediation between Madrid and Barcelona.
He praised the peaceful attitude of Catalans and promised to continue to fight peacefully in spite of the violent actions of Spanish police who injured hundreds of Catalans during Sunday’s referendum vote.
Carles Puigdemont encouraged calm saying that “peace and agreement” is part of the Catalan character. He said that this attitude is not being reciprocated by the Spanish government and that it was irresponsible for Madrid not to listen to offers of mediation and negotiation. He did however thank many Spanish citizens for being sympathetic to the Catalan cause and for encouraging an attitude of brotherly cooperation.

Puigdemont said that Catalonia is an open, pluralistic and welcoming society that will continue to work constructively for a better future for Catalonia and Spain.
He also stated that his government “will apply the results of the referendum”, an indication of a forthcoming declaration of independence that some say might come in less than a week.
On the whole, the message was one of criticism for the Spanish King and Prime Minister but nevertheless, a message which called for dialogue rather than discord. In this sense, it is up to Spain to respond in a manner that departs from the rhetoric that has previous come from Madrid which continues to ignore the referendum’s impact while seeking to maintain a status quo that seems increasingly untenable.
 

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

UN experts urge political dialogue by Spain refuses it

UN experts* are calling for urgent dialogue in the aftermath of the vote on Catalonia’s independence from Spain, and are stressing the need for human rights to be fully respected.
“We were deeply disturbed by the eruption of violence on Sunday, 1 October 2017, as the vote took place in Catalonia,” the experts said in a joint statement.  “A way forward has to be found through political dialogue. We urge the re-establishment of effective dialogue as a first step to defusing the situation.
“We urge the Spanish authorities to fully respect fundamental human rights, including the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, participation in public affairs and freedom of expression,” the experts added.
The experts also called for an investigation into why hundreds of people protesting peacefully or seeking to vote and manifest their opinions, as well as some police officers, were reportedly injured.  The referendum had been declared unlawful by Spain’s constitutional court and police attempted to stop the vote.
Annalisa Ciampi, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, stressed that Spain had a duty to respect and protect people’s right to gather for peaceful protests.
“This requires ensuring that all measures to manage public protest and assembly are in conformity with Spain's international obligations. Any use of force by police must be both necessary and proportionate," said Ms. Ciampi.
ENDS
*The UN experts: Ms Annalisa Ciampi, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Ms. Leilani Farha, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context; Mr. Alfred de Zayas, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order; Mr. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

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Monday, October 2, 2017

UN official seeks probe into Spain's violent response to Catalonia referendum

A top United Nations official on Monday called for an independent and impartial investigation into the violence that saw hundreds injured as Spanish authorities grappled to thwart a Catalan independence referendum ruled illegal by Spain's judiciary.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein voiced his concern over the situation in Catalonia after more than 884 people were injured, according to Catalan authorities, during clashes with Spanish police on Sunday.



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The Guardian view on Catalonia’s referendum: the Spanish state has lost


Spain is in crisis, and its prime minister appears to be in denial. The run-up to Sunday’s referendum on independence for Catalonia made it clear that the country was in trouble. But neither those arranging it nor those rejecting it can fully have anticipated the scenes at polling stations: police in riot gear beating peaceful protesters with batons, dragging voters out by the hair or throwing them down stairs, firing rubber bullets to disperse crowds – even striking at Catalan firefighters and jostling with Catalan police.
The immediate result of the violence was hundreds of casualties by mid-afternoon, according to Catalan authorities, and at least 11 wounded officers, according to the central government. The wider effect is the shock expressed well beyond Catalonia, and Spain. The outcome is almost certain to be that some of the Catalans indifferent or opposed to secession – until now, at least, the majority – are pushed into the arms of the cause. Who wants to be ruled by a state like this, many are asking.


Yet Mariano Rajoy’s response, in his address to the nation, was simple: there was no referendum and no problem – police acted with “firmness and serenity”. The responsibility for all that had happened lay with the Catalonian government. Spain is paying for his determination to stop the illegal vote by the bluntest means and at all costs. His latest remarks are only likely to inflame matters.
Catalan nationalists owe him much of their success in recent years. The Spanish financial crisis fuelled a surge in the independence movement, leaving many in the wealthy region feeling they were paying more than their fair share. But the shift in the public mood was spurred on when the constitutional court trimmed back a charter increasing the region’s powers – and already approved by the Spanish parliament – after a challenge by Mr Rajoy’s People’s party.
Even so, support for independence peaked in 2013, at an estimated 49%. Catalan nationalists, who hold only a wafer-thin majority in the regional parliament, pushed the legislation for Sunday’s vote through it against considerable opposition; Catalans who wanted to remain in Spain were unlikely to vote. The Spanish constitutional court ruled it illegal and called for it to be halted. But Mr Rajoy’s heavy-handed response furthered the cause of secessionists again.
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The central government seized 10m ballot papers; arrested key officials; dismantled the technology to connect voting stations, tally votes and vote online; blocked and removed voters from polling stations; and confiscated ballot boxes. Catalan officials told voters to print off ballot papers at home and said they could vote wherever they wanted. Whatever they may claim, the results are neither legally nor morally binding: whatever votes are tallied cannot truly represent Catalonia’s wishes. Between them, the two sides have produced both a vote that is hugely contentious and a result that is meaningless.
The prime minister’s address, made as condemnations of violence arrived from Jeremy Corbyn, the Belgian prime minister and the EU’s Guy Verhofstadt – though most member states sought to stay out of the affair – is likely to fuel nationalists’ accusations of authoritarianism and complaints about the suppression of the Catalan will.
But if Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont was right to say that the Spanish state had “lost much more than what it had already lost”, his assertion that Catalonia had won is at best half true. Most Catalans wished both for a referendum and to remain in a united country. They have been ill-served by both the state and the independence movement. Mr Verhofstadt urged de-escalation, a negotiated solution bringing in all parties – including the opposition in Catalonia – and respect for Spain’s constitutional and legal order. He is right. Finding a way out of this mess will require a willingness to listen, to Catalans most of all.

Since you’re here …

… we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading the Guardian than ever but advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. And unlike many news organisations, we haven’t put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as open as we can. So you can see why we need to ask for your help. The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe our perspective matters – because it might well be your perspective, too.
I appreciate there not being a paywall: it is more democratic for the media to be available for all and not a commodity to be purchased by a few. I’m happy to make a contribution so others with less means still have access to information. Thomasine F-R.
The Guardian

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Landslide victory for Independence in democratic Catalonia's referendum in spite of Spain's violence

"There will be no census", Spain said.
"There will be no ballot boxes", they said.
"There will be no ballot paper", they added.
"There will be no polling stations open", the PP government said.

"There will be no referendum", insisted.

But Catalonia voted, suffered, resisted, and Independence won.







In fact 400 polling stations were closed or the ballot boxes seized by the Spanish undemocratic police but the referendum was celebrated with an universal census in hundred of other polling stations. A victory for democracy. The regional government spokesman, Jordi Turull, said 15,000 votes were still due to be counted and that total voting figures remain incomplete and provisional because a much larger number, an estimated 770,000, are either inaccessible or lost after some polling stations were closed and ballot boxes were seized by police.

“There have been enormous difficulties, but the vote has happened and we’ve gone from ‘votarem’ [we will vote] to ‘hem votat’ [voting has happened.]”; Mr Turull said.

“We will respect the mandate which the citizens have given us,” regional Vice President Oriol Junqueras said.

Even before the figures were made public, Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont had already hinted strongly at a potential unilateral declaration of independence when he promised the results of the referendum will be sent to Catalonia’s parliament within the next few days.

As the results of town after town in Catalonia came through, the pro-independence vote in the referendum looked on track for a landslide victory.

In Girona, a nationalist stronghold and the first of Catalonia’s four provincial capitals to declare its vote, the pro-independence vote was 27, 786 votes in favour of secession out of a total of 29, 717 votes cast, whilst only 1,086 voted to remain in Spain.

With a narrow separatist majority in power in the regional parliament, it is hard to see how Mr Puigdemont’s promise to act on these results would not increase the possibility of a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI).

A UDI has already been promised by several nationalist politicians should the referendum deliver a majority in favour of secession. Catalonia’s referendum law also foresees a UDI by the regional parliament of Catalonia if there is a majority.

“With this day of hope and suffering, Catalonia has earned the right to be an independent state,” Mr Puigdemont insisted in a televised speech on Sunday night.

However, the Spanish government has said repeatedly it does not recognise the referendum, let alone its results. Outside Catalonia in the rest of Spain, some segments of the media and politicians argue that the referendum infringed basic electoral regulations, whilst the country’s constitutional court already declared it illegal.

On Sunday Socialist Party leader Pedro Sanchez’ echoed Spanish Premier Mariano’s Rajoy’s rejection of the referendum, and Mr Rajoy stated categorically that “there was no referendum, just a pretext of one.”

But the Catalan nationalists were having none of that on Sunday night, with Mr Puigdemont arguing that “millions of people have spoken loud and clear, and we have the right to decide our future.”

Late into the night huge crowds formed in the Plaza de Catalunya in Barcelona, spreading into sidestreets to listen to Mr Puigdemont’s speech on a giant TV screen. In central squares across smaller cities in Catalonia many pro-referendum supporters followed the results and speeches, cheering as the votes in favour of secession came through, while cars adorned with Catalan flags weaved through the streets honking their horns.

Meanwhile Catalan government figures say the total number of people requiring hospital treatment following violent clashes with police has now risen to 844.

Two people are seriously injured, one a 70-year-old man who suffered a heart attack, and the other a young person who was hit in the eye by a rubber bullet.

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Saturday, September 30, 2017

From Catalonia, to free journalists around the world

The citizens of Catalonia have been called to cast their ballot in a referendum on self-determination this coming October 1st, in order to decide their political future. This vote has been declared illegal by the Spanish state, which has tried to suppress it with all the means at its disposal. Those of us working in media loyal to the Catalan institutions have been harassed judicially and politically, and our most basic rights and freedoms abrogated, simply for allowing pro-referendum publicity to appear in our publications.

This has been condemned by the Catalan Ombudsman, who has brought the complaints of hundreds of media, represented by the associations to which they belong, to the attention of the institutions of the European Union. We journalists have demonstrated on the streets of Barcelona, and we have received support from many diverse sectors of Catalan society. UN human rights experts have warned the Spanish authorities about the violations of such rights that are taking place here, due to the attempts to impede democratic expression through the referendum.

As far as our own publication is concerned, several journalists were obliged to show identification at our Barcelona offices by officers of the paramilitary Civil Guard. In its 21 years of existence, NacióDigital has enjoyed a wide readership among the people of this country, reporting on sport, culture, popular festivals, social movements and current affairs in general. And as we wish to continue doing so in a normal fashion, we ask free journalists around the world to please be aware of what is happening in Catalonia. We are the heirs of a long journalistic tradition of freethinking which, in the terrible ups and downs of the 20th century, was always on the side of democracy and opposed to totalitarianism. And we are not about to stop now.

Today, the future of democracy and the European project is also threatened in Barcelona and Catalonia as a whole. The ideals of freedom of expression in the media and the right of citizens to reliable information must be allowed to continue to exist. No matter how much they are menaced and attacked. Our tools are the digital networks on the internet which have been decisive when mobilising millions of people over the last seven years. We are therefore appealing to the consciences of information professionals around the world in the hope that they will show us support during these difficult hours, which will be the prelude to the definitive freedom of a thousand year old nation.

Here at NacióDigital we wish to repeat yet again that we are on the side of the government of Catalonia, of its president Carles Puigdemont and the vice-president Oriol Junqueras, and of the parliamentary majority which wants to turn the wish of a majority of Catalans to decide their own future, into reality. And we ask the people of Catalonia to vote and to vote Yes, to achieve a free and sovereign Catalonia, that will be socially just, and a friend to all the peoples of the world.

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Help Catalonia !, by Albert Sánchez Piñol

What is happening in Catalonia is terrible: an unprecedented step backwards for democracy in modern Europe. On 20 September, the Guàrdia Civil (the Spanish military police) took the Catalan institutions by surprise and arrested some twenty leaders of the Generalitat (the Catalan government), which in practice means that it placed the Catalan region and its people under a de facto state of emergency. The purpose? To forcibly prevent a democratic referendum on the independence of Catalonia. I write these lines without knowing what will happen in the next few days: it could get even worse. The question is: how have we got here? Allow me a bit of history.

Catalonia is not a simple region of Spain. It never has been. In the tenth century, it already had its own sovereigns and institutions. Until the eighteenth century, what we know today as  Spain was no more than a confederation of nations, having in common a monarch, a religion, and little else. (In the "conquest" of America or the Flanders wars of the 16th century, for example, there were no Catalans, because they were Castilian territories). Consider: Germany as a state was the result of the consensus of the various territories that came together to form it. In Spain, unity was only achieved through military terrorism. On September 11, 1714, after a long and devastating war, Barcelona fell into the hands of the Castilian troops. The Catalans never accepted the new regime. As a Spanish general from the nineteenth century said, "Barcelona must be bombarded every fifty years." (In fact they did it more often.) In 1936 the military who launched the Civil War claimed three reasons: defending the Catholic Church and fighting communism and separatism. Today communism is in the waste bin of history and the Church has lost its ancient power. But the separate Catalan identity, in spite of all the attacks and all the repression, still continues to exist.

Spain has always seen Catalan identity as a tumor. In the 21st century all Catalan demands have been rejected despite wide popular support. And all the polls point out that 80% of Catalans support a democratic referendum as a means to resolve disagreements with Spain. And so, since 2010, more than one million Catalans have taken to the streets every September 11th in support of an independent republic. You read that right. One million protesters, radically peaceful, year after year, out of a population of seven million!

The Catalan process towards independence has revealed the profound failings of Spanish democracy. An example: for the Germans, the Constitutional Court is an admirably neutral institution, which impartially resolves political conflicts. In Catalonia there are, in fact, people who believe that the Spanish Constitutional Court is impartial, but they are as few as those who think that the moon is made of cheese. In Spain there is no division of powers, at least with regard to the Catalan case. It's hard to believe, but the newspapers make the rulings public before the court even meets. The general prosecutor of the State dares to publicly accuse  Catalan citizens of being "abducted by their Government"! Can you imagine the president of the German Constitutional Court being a militant member of the governing party?

The Spanish government tries to make global public opinion see the independence supporters as a group of ignorant and fanatical nationalists. The reality is almost the opposite: bullfights, the greatest symbol of Spanishness, are prohibited in Catalonia, as they are considered an undesirable, cruel and atavistic spectacle. And here we come to the key point of this issue:

In Catalonia today, things are exactly the opposite of how the Spanish Government says they are. The propaganda of Madrid is based on putting into practice the ancient slogan: "if Hitler returned, he would accuse his enemies of Nazism." Thus, the ruling party calls the promoters of a democratic referendum: populists (!), totalitarians (!!) and even fascists (!!!). And this is a political party that was founded by ministers of the bloody dictator Francisco Franco! When the Spanish police force violates the sanctity of the postal service, they claim that it does so to "protect the rights of citizens"; when the Guàrdia Civil invades printing companies to seize ballot papers, it is acting to "guarantee the rule of law". When more than 700 Catalan mayors are threatened with prison (more than 700, when in all of Catalonia there are only 900 municipalities !!!) for the "crime" of being prepared to set up ballot boxes, it is done to "defend democracy". And finally: the government which called this referendum is a legitimate one, which has parliamentary support that goes from the liberal right to the extreme left. And, in spite of this, citizens are prohibited from voting. With what argument? With the argument that voting is undemocratic and that the referendum is a "coup d'etat". (I assure you this is not a joke.)

The break between Madrid and Catalonia can no longer be fixed. Spain has died. But the separatists did not kill it, but its own elites, with their political arrogance, their moral, mental and emotional inflexibility. When a minister from Madrid refers to the case of Catalonia, we still hear echoes of the voices of the old nobles and conquistadors. For them, the sacrosanct unity of the country is not a kind of friendly coexistence, a social pact that is renewed and modernized periodically. No. For Madrid, national indivisibility is a kind of pseudo-religious dogma. Some say that, on his death-bed, Franco the dictator told the future King Juan Carlos: "I only ask that you maintain the sacred unity of Spain." What Madrid did not understand was that the only democratic way to retain Catalonia was by respecting its culture and its institutions. (In addition, Juan Carlos was too idiotic to understand anything: he did nothing but visit prostitutes and kill elephants.)

Catalonia is not the problem; it is the solution. Spain is using armed force to retain Catalonia. Such a state has already lost all its legitimacy. You can not love someone who scares you. But in addition this obtuse strategy of force has polarized the conflict: for now the Catalan flag, the Senyera, no longer represents just one small nation against an unfriendly state. Today, this old flag brings together all the democrats who oppose authoritarianism and the massive repression of human rights. Do not be fooled: in Catalonia, right now, the battle that is being fought is precisely this, democracy versus authoritarianism.

But let's be optimistic. Europe has before it an unusual, historic opportunity. Madrid is not negotiating because it simply can not admit the existence of Catalonia as a political subject. (Do you remember what we said a moment ago about Spanish imperial arrogance?) If Europe gets involved, it will be doing democracy a favour. And, paradoxically, it will also be helping these same Spanish leaders, who are aware, deep down, of the magnitude, popularity and broad base of the independence movement. With Europe as an intermediary, the Spanish government will be able to claim to its more ultra-nationalist elements that a higher power has forced it to negotiate. In this way, Europe would have reaffirmed its fundamental values ​​and its objective of mutual support. To help Catalonia, then, is to help Spain and Europe. Abandoning it, on the other hand, would amount to renouncing Europe's commitment to the most basic human freedoms. Let us help Catalonia. After all, what is this intolerable thing that the Catalans are demanding?

The right to vote.

Albert Sánchez Piñol

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Friday, September 29, 2017

Spanish police expected to sealling off polling stations; people plan to hold sleep-ins at them

Spain heads into an uncertain weekend with police expected to start sealing off schools and other buildings that could be used as polling stations for Catalonia's independence referendum set for Sunday.

Passions are high and some parents plan to hold sleep-ins at their children’s schools to prevent them from being sealed. It is furthermore unclear whether Catalan or state police will take on the task, given that many Catalan officers will be ambivalent about carrying out orders.

Madrid is convinced it has done enough to undermine the vote to such an extent the outcome won’t be valid, and it is not clear that Catalan leaders will now unilaterally declare independence as once expected. But this whole saga could have lasting after-effects for Spain’s body politic whichever way it goes.

Spanish Police masked agents raid CUP pro independence party building


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