Spain’s dangerous game

The long-awaited “hot autumn” has been marked more by heavy rain and fatal flash floods, and small demonstrations countering Spanish nationalist provocation than massive mobilisations. In this uncertain world, one sure thing about the future is that tomorrow Catalan civil leaders, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, will have been in prison for one year awaiting trial on rebellion and sedition charges for calming a 40,000-strong crowd and sending them home, thereby ensuring that there was no violent or tumultuous uprising. Another terrible anniversary, this time for people who deserve medals from the Spanish authorities, not to be held as hostages.

To coincide with 12 October celebrations of the so-called “Day of Spanishness”, the Public Prosecutor has leaked its decision to proceed to trial maintaining the rebellion charges, not just against the Jordis, but also the seven Catalan politicians jailed in the past year. Uncharacteristically, the sentences requested will be at the lower end of the scale and unanimous verdicts will be sought, as if the Prosecutor’s office were also aware of the injustice, but unable and unwilling to turn back of its own accord. If for nothing else, the lawfare waged against “the process” has served to distract those responsible for putting the Catalan Republic into effect from their 1 October and 21 December mandates.

The Catalan political parties, ERC and PDeCAT, which a week earlier had split over how to delegate the votes of jailed or exiled representatives and lost their majority in the Catalan parliament and had been in discussions with the Spanish government over the fate of those imprisoned, have now vowed to withdraw all support for Spain’s minority PSOE government. Both formations will come under close scrutiny from Catalan voters, disappointed with its government’s lack of resolve, angry that it has allowed itself to be blackmailed into obedience by the existence of hostages. Catalan Vice President, Pere Aragonès, yesterday summarised the government’s meek position with the words “Freedom, acquittal, self-determination”. One reply suggested “Self-determination, disobedience, freedom” as being a more effective recipe. Another ironic reply reflected the general loss of confidence in the Catalan government with “Freedom, amnesty, Statute of Autonomy”.

Taking into account the irregularities in the designation of Pablo Llarena to instruct on the case against the “Catalan process” and the make-up of the Supreme Court tribunal selected to try the prisoners, hope of a fair trial is nil and the feeling is that, once back in Madrid, they will not be coming home for a very long time unless the PSOE government dares to stop a trial by judges that clearly lack independence. Faith in the Spanish judiciary is so low that President Torra is even being urged in some quarters to open the prisons and then perhaps move to Switzerland if he can get out of the country.

What’s more, the Supreme Court could adjourn the cases until the new year, dragging out an already unbearable situation even further. It is an attempt to tense the cable to breaking point, one more attempt to provoke a massive and violent reaction from Catalan civil society. Understandably in the circumstances, Catalan people are unsure how to act, fearful of making the situation worse for all concerned.

On the other hand, the response to this outrageous abuse of judicial power and the general inertia that has gripped Catalan politicians could be massive. It could be that all-illusive 1 October moment that was wasted by Catalan leaders a year ago. It will not be violent.

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