The full text in English of Artur Mas's press conference in the Palau de la Generalitation following his court hearing before the Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Catalunya to explain his involvement in the organisation of the 9-N proxy referendum on the political future last year.
Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the video of the press conference in Catalan.
necessary to say that the first thing I want to do is to give my heartfelt
thanks for the reception I've received from so many people. The reception has
been, as was the case with Minister Rigau and ex-Vice-President Ortega,
formidable; we've felt very cared for, we've felt very comforted, which at this
time is very important to feel, we've felt that there were many people with us. And
I've been taken back to this very same Palau de la Generalitat, now more or less
a year ago, to October 2014. In October a year ago, hundreds of mayors came
from different towns of Catalonia came, and after crossing Plaça de Sant Jaume coming from the Saló de Cent of the Ajuntament de Barcelona, the president of
the Association of Municipalities of Catalonia, Miquel Buch, said to me here
"President, if in the coming months there's a specially complicated or
difficult moment and you look to your side, there'll be a lot of people, many
of us will be there".
And today has been exactly like that. I personally have felt very well accompanied, very well received, very cared for, and it's true when I've looked behind me and to the sides, I've seen that there were a lot of people giving me their support and their warmth. So the first thing I wanted to do was to thank those people, whether they hold public office or not, who have bothered to take part in this appearance before the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia.
The summary I wanted to give you is the following:
The participatory process held on November 9th 2014 was the consequence of an obvious institutional and political initiative but also of a very intense involvement of citizens, who were volunteers, and not just involved from outside but were also involved from the inside, because they were the real executors of the participative process.
For an action of this kind, I ought to have to appear before Parliament but never before a court. For giving a voice to the people, for allowing people to participate and for exercising the right of participation, I should have to appear before Parliament to give an explanation, but never before a court, and even less, much less, in a criminal case like the one currently going through the hearing process.
I declare myself - and I'm not hiding - the person responsible for taking the political initiative, for having thought of and for having pushed through the participative process of November 9th last year. I'm responsible for having listened to hundreds of thousands of people who, in a peaceful, civic and exemplary way, filled streets, squares and roads of Catalonia in July 2010 and September 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
I'm also responsible for having listened to more than 90% of this country's town councils, who during 2014 asked me to put out ballot boxes on November 9th so that the people of Catalonia could have their say.
I'm responsible for having obeyed various resolutions passed by large majorities in the Parliament of Catalonia that urged the Government of the Generalitat to bring about a specific consultation on the political future of Catalonia.
I'm the only person responsible - in this not the most responsible nor one of those responsible - of having given a voice and a vote to the citizens of Catalonia in the early elections of November 25th 2012 and September 27th 2015, with the objective of receiving democratic mandates that would legitimise posterior political decisions.
I'm responsible for all this. Of listening to many people, of listening to town councils and of putting out ballot boxes. And I don't understand that, for behaving like this, I should be declaring before a court of justice as a result of an accusation made by the General Public Prosecutor of the State and opposed by 9 public prosecutors who make the board of public prosecutors of Catalonia.
I'm also responsible - this time along with the Government of the Generalitat of the time - of having applied the ruling of the Constitutional Court that suspended various articles of the Law of Non-Referendary Consultations that the Parliament of Catalonia had passed in September 2014 with a majority of 106 out of 135. I'm also responsible together with the Government of having applied the ruling of the Constitutional Court that suspended the decree calling the consultation for November 9th last year that I myself had signed.
Finally, I feel responsible for having tried at all times to combine the popular democratic mandates with existing and new legal frameworks, conscious as I am of the democratic obligation of institutional and political representatives, to adapt the legal frameworks to the underlying social demands expressed in a free and peaceful way by voting. What we have often explained to be our responsibility as politicians and leaders of institutions is to combine and bring together well the legitimacy of the ballot box and legality; not to confront laws and legal frameworks with the ballot box, but rather adapt the mandates received at the ballot with the existing legal frameworks and those that might be created in the future.
I feel responsible for having acted like this, of having defended social peace, ideological freedom, the freedom of expression and the right of participation, all these, by the way, principles and rights recognised and protected by the Constitution.
I pointed out to the Court that they should consider whether behaving like a democrat is the same as acting like a delinquent. I'll leave that in the hands of justice, but I'll repeat it: whether behaving like a democrat is the same as acting like a delinquent. And in my opinion - and I think this opinion is shared by many people, by many of our citizens - behaving like a democrat means listening to the people, promoting the right of participation and of freedom of expression and ideological freedom, listening to the local institutions of the country and putting out ballot boxes as many times as was necessary so that the people could express their opinion where it most matters, which is precisely at the ballot box which makes us all equal, those who have most power and those who have least, those who have most money and those who have least, those who are in work and those who aren't, the elderly and the young. We will find out whether behaving like a democrat is the same as acting like a delinquent in the coming months as the case develops if it continues after this hearing.
Finally, I pointed out, with the intention of helping those instructing the case to understand and to make the events clear, I wanted to make reference to a determining factor. The consultation of November 9th last year was initially designed to be executed by the Administration of the Generalitat, according to the decree I signed on September 27th in this very same Palau de la Generalitat.
However, following the suspension dictated by the Constitutional Court of that decree and many of the articles that supported it in the Law of Non-Referendary Popular Consultations that had been passed by the Parliament of Catalonia that September, after that suspension, to be precise after October 14th, the format was changed. The Administration was no longer responsible for 9-N as a participative process but rather the volunteers. The volunteers who logically freely signed up to put the participatory process into action. Remember that in this very same Palau, on the other side of this Galeria Gòtica, when I came out on October 14th, I said that we needed 20,000 volunteers to take the participative process of 9-N forward, but we had 40,000. Thanks to this it was possible to hold 9-N. If not, it couldn't have been done.
Admittedly the Generalitat collaborated, informed, provided services and materials, gave explanations to inform public opinion, but it didn't give orders or instructions.
On October 14th last year when I myself announced the new format for 9-N, remember that the maximum representatives of central government denigrated it and even publicly made fun of it. They took 15 days to make an appeal to the Constitutional Court, when the first time, with the consultation, they'd taken a few hours. And it was precisely during those 15 days that passed from the change of format from consultation to participative process and the presentation of the appeal by the Spanish Government to the Constitutional Court, during those 15 long days that the Generalitat of Catalonia was able to do all the preparation work for what would later be 9-N as far as the responsibilities of the Administration of the Generalitat were concerned.
On the evening of November 4th I received the new suspension by the Constitutional Court promoted by the Spanish Government, which had passed from making fun in public of our initiative to an abuse of power, using the Constitutional Court again to try to abort an initiative involving freedom of expression and citizen participation, which was in volunteers' hands, and didn't have any legal effect, as I made clear on various occasions.
Final summary, which is a strictly political evaluation and not a legal one: the success of 9-N 2014, with an enormous civil mobilisation and broad international impact is what, in my opinion provoked these accusations. It wasn't a legal question, it wasn't a question of laws, it was rage at the success of 9-N from different institutions of the Spanish State that didn't accept to a normal democratic level, with a normal democratic attitude, that such a festival of exemplary public participation took place in Catalonia, with 2.3 million voters and a great international impact. Let me add that a democratic success should never end up before a court of law.
That's the summary of what I wanted to tell you and that it's a part of what happened today in my declaration before the TSJC.
I would also like to add, to be strictly true to reality, that the treatment from members of the court, and specifically from the magistrate, has been impeccable from an institutional point of view and from the point of view of the interrogation, which in an open case like this one the judge had to proceed with. But I emphasise the impeccable treatment because all the evaluations that I give have nothing to do with questioning the behaviour of our country's courts of justice. We have always collaborated and will continue collaborating with them. Today, despite the disproportion of this case that's going through the hearing process, I was pleased to answer the questions of the magistrate because I understand that the behaviour of the State General Public Prosecutor in this particular case, as was the case with Minister Rigau and ex-Vice-President Ortega, has been absolutely disproportionate. I insist that there were unanimous criteria amongst the 9 prosecutors of the board of public prosecutors of Catalonia who couldn't appreciate - and there were nine of them - that any crime had been committed during what happened on 9-N last year. But the General Public Prosecutor of the State overrode the unanimous criteria of the prosecutors of Catalonia and made the accusations that have finally been processed. This behaviour, according to our criteria, is absolutely disproportionate and has meant that I didn't answer the questions formulated by the Public Prosecutor.