Catalonia Calling! #20

Catalonia, Down by Law - 6/2/2016

Catalonia Calling #20 is called Catalonia, Down by Law in a week when the ANC, AMI and ACM and the Constituent Process are under the magnifying glass of the Spanish legal system.

I'll probably be back talking about what's happening in the attempt to form a Spanish government next week. Mariano Rajoy and the PP seem to be out of the race and the King has given Pedro Sánchez of PSOE the difficult task of forming a government. The negotiations with Podemos and Ciudadanos are at early stages so there's actually not much more than rumours to comment on.

For this reason, when the news broke that the Audiencia Nacional, the Spanish High Court, is investigating the Catalan National Assembly for rebellion and sedition, I thought I'd look into the topic of legal action being taken against Catalonia. I knew I'd have a lot to talk about since the beginning of the Catalan independence process but I was surprised to find that I could get a full programme just out of cases brought against Catalan politicians, institutions and civil society groups in the last week.

I've got an amazing 6 cases to talk about this week,  so it's fair to say that Catalonia is definitely Down by Law.


ANC, AMI and ACM - Audiencia Nacional

The Audiencia Nacional, which is the Spanish National Court, has announced this week that it is investigating three grassroots pro-indepenence organisations, the ANC, the AMI and the ACM, for the crimes of rebellion and insurrection for promoting motions in town councils around Catalonia in support of the Declaration of the Start of the Independence Process of November 9th 2015, which was suspended by the Spanish Constitutional Court.

Just to remind you that these are civil society groups. The ANC is the Assemblea Nacional Catalana or Catalan National Assembly, the main grassroots pro-independence movement and the AMI is the Association of Municipalities for Independence and the ACM is the Association of Catalan Municipalities, which are both voluntary groupings of town councils.

Apart from the whole idea being completely ridiculous, the essential point behind this is that the Penal Code only considers an act seditious if it involves "violence, tumult and disorder", none of which occurred in a peaceful vote in a town council meeting.

Obviously, whoever is behind this simply doesn't like the idea of Catalonia wanting to become independent..

Commissions of the Catalan Parliament - Constitutional Court

The next case is the various commissions in the Parliament of Catalonia that are going to be taken before the Constitutional Court. To be specific these are the ones discussing the Constituent Process, the Catalan Treasury and the Catalan Social Security System and were also suspended by the Constitutional Court as part of the Declaration of the Start of the Independence Process of November 9th 2015.

One of the laws passed just before the end of the last legislature in the Spanish Cortes was to extend the Constitutional Court's powers so that it can act upon its own decisions. This means that once it suspends a piece of legislation, the Constitutional Court itself can make the accusation against anyone who disobeys its ruling. Previously, this was done by another court, normally the TSJC or Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Catalunya, in the cases of Catalan independence issues.

The Laws of the Constituent Process, the Catalan Treasury and the Catalan Social Security System were all part of the Declaration of the Start of the Independence Process of November 9th 2015, which was immediately suspended.

However, the Parliament of Catalonia has simply set up commissions to draft the proposed laws. They haven't been debated in the Parliament of Catalonia yet and are still a long way from actually becoming laws. Until something concrete has happened, there's really nothing to make an accusation against. You can declare a law or a declaration unconstitutional but you can't really do that to a group of people discussing what a proposed law should be like.

In fact, this is precisely the pro-independence party's game. To get all the laws necessary for independence prepared so that they can be passed just before the endo of the 18 month legislature and the Constitutional Court doesn't have time to act before independence is declared.

At the moment, no crime has been committed.

Catalan Foreign Ministry - Constitutional Court

In the picture, you can see Catalan Foreign Minister, Raul Romeva who met with the US consul in Barcelona, Marcos Mandojana, on Friday, and he looks pretty unconcerned by threats from government spokesperson, Soraya Saénz de Santamaria, that an appeal is going to be made to declare the Catalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs unconstitutional because it invades government competences.

Once again the government is attacking ideas rather than acts. You cannot illegalise something like this just because of its name. You have to have evidence that it is behaving in such a way that it invades government competences.

Most Autonomous Communities have foreign delegations that promote their culture and tourism and are used to promote business and these are perfectly constitutional. Apart from its name, in what way is the Catalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs any different?

Copa del Rei - Audiencia Nacional

Moving slightly way from independence and politics, the Audiencia Nacional is going to investigate the people allegedly behind the massive whistling and booing during the national anthem before the final of the Copa del Rey between FC Barcelona and Athletic Club de Bilbao last year. Their crime is apparently slander against the King.

Here you can see the King flanked by Catalan president, Artur Mas, and president of the Spanish football association, Angel Villar. I can understand that this booing made the King uncomfortable and he doesn't seem such a bad bloke really but the booing wasn't directed against him personally but rather what he represents.

It was supporters of a Catalan team and supporters of a Basque team expressing their dissatisfaction with the Spanish State. Perhaps the Spanish State with a long history of legal and police repression, should ask itself why this is happening rather than using the law to persecute it, which will only serve to exacerbate the bad feeling.

Francesc Homs in 9N case - TSJC

In additon to Catalan president at the time, Artur Mas, Education Minister, Irene Rigau, and Catalan vice president, Joana Ortega, the Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Catalunya is going to investigate Francesc Homs for his involvement in the organisation of of 9N, the proxy referendum on independence held on November 9th 2014.

At the time, Francesc Homs was spokesperson for the Catalan Government. He's now a deputy in the Spanish Parliament in Madrid representing Democràcia i Llibertat, the Catalan coalition led by Convergència.

Apart from arguments about whether prosecuting people for organising a vote is legitimate or not and whether the participatory process, which was actually little more than a voluntary survey, was unconstitutional or not. This just seems like more hot air.

Jesús Barrientos - TSJC

I mustn't make direct accusations but I suspect that it has something to do with this man, Jesús Maria Barrientos, who's recently replaced Miguel Angel Gimeno as president of the Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Catalunya.

Miguel Angel Gimeno was known as a progressive and had actually archived the case against Jordi Turull, Marta Rovira, Antonio Baños and Anna Gabriel, the promotors of the Declaration of the Start of the Independence Process of November 9th 2015.

Jesús Barrientos is considered a conservative and known for his strong line against the Catalan independence movement. It looks to me that he wants to make his presence felt. Is it unfair to say that not only his nomination but also this accusation against Francesc Homs appear to be politically motivated?

Jesús Villegas - El Poder Amordazado

On this subject, I watched a fascinating interview on Catalan current affairs programme last night between presenter Josep Cuní and Jesús Villegas, who is author of El Poder Amordazado or Gagged Power and leader of a group of Spanish judges who oppose the mixing of politics and the legal system.

He was highly critical of how involved judges and public prosecutors are in politics and vice versa and went as far as to say that a judge should neither be a progressive or a conservative, he or she should be completely impartial.

He pointed out that it was under the PSOE government of Felipe González in 1985 that the decision was taken for Congress to nominate people to positions of power on the main Spanish High Courts.

A Final Thought

I'm really pleased to see that there are honest judges in Spain who are really trying to clean up their profession but I think you know that I'm not optimistic precisely because the power to separate politcs from the legal system lies precisely in the hands of politicians.

Unless there's a really radical change in the near future and Podemos end up with enough power to make some sweeping changes, which looks unlikely, I think the vested interests of the political class are going to hold sway.

Here in Catalonia, we have the exciting chance to create a completely new legal system that hasn't inherited any totalitarian tics from Francoism. It can, if done properly be modern, transparent and completely honest.

Trusting in the legal system is trusting democracy. It's about citizens having unassailable rights. That's what I want for the Catalan Republic.

Visca el Barça! Visca Catalunya!

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