EXCLUSIVE: Independence campaigners speak out from Catalonia about Spanish political repression

Alasdair Clark

Leading independence campaigners say ‘Catalonia needs Scotland’ as they defend democracy 

IMPRISONED POLITICAL LEADERS will not receive a fair trial if they are extradited to Spain, according to leading Catalonian independence campaigners who say the Spanish Government is interfering in the justice system to repress the people. 

In an exclusive interview with CommonSpace, one independence campaigner said that if the St Andrews University academic and ex-Catalan minister Clara Ponsati was extradited from Scotland then she would be subject to a politicised criminal trial which could imprison her for 30 years. 

Spanish authorities have asked for Professor Ponsati to be extradited to face charges of “violent rebellion” and allegedly misusing public funds, both in connection with the Catalan Government’s organisation of the October 2017 referendum. 

However, Marta Oliver, a civil servant from Barcelona, told CommonSpace that she believes all the charges leveled at Prof Ponsati and her other government colleagues are false. 

“He [the Spanish Government’s minister for the treasury] has audited the Catalan Government’s spending more than once, and they could find no evidence that any public money was used in the referendum.” 

READ MORE: ‘A long road ahead’: Clara Ponsati released on bail 

Joan Canadell, the founder of a group similar to the pro-independence Business of Scotland and a member of the Catalan National Assembly agrees, saying his understanding was the referendum was funded by the people of Catalonia. 

Marta Oliver also rubbished the charge of “violent rebellion”, insisting that the Catalan independence movement was a peaceful one and that the only violence had come from the Spanish state. 

“It is 2018 and 25 politicians are threatened with imprisonment because they listened to the people they served. 

“My message to Mr Rajoy is simple: why is that a problem?” Ms Oliver said.

Supporters say that their main argument now is not about the merits of Catalonian independence but instead for democracy itself, which they say is non-existent in the country.

“The judges in Scotland must separate the political from the legal.” Joan Canadell, Catalan independence campaigner

The “fight for democracy” is set to come into sharp focus in Scotland, with the hearing to decide on whether Prof Clara Ponsati should be extradited to be Spain set for later in April. 

CommonSpace understands that Prof Ponsati’s legal team will lead on arguments to rubbish the charges against her as politically motivated, and when asked about the message Catalans would send to the Scottish legal system, Joan Canadell said it would be that they should uphold the law. 

“The judges in Scotland must separate the political from the legal. 

“They are not political, and they must uphold the law. 

“But in doing that they have to aware of the persecution that [Prof Ponsati] is facing repression at the hands of the Spanish state.”

Marta Oliver agreed, saying the judges should not be influenced by politicians like they are in Spain: “I would say they must read the Spanish warrant and contrast this with what actually happened in Catalonia [in the independence referendum]. 

Joan Canadell said that he was not surprised that so many of the Spanish people were against Catalonia, because the “elites” in Spain control the media: “Spanish people think the way Spain is behaving is normal. 

“We are living with a lack of democracy, but this is not new. The actions of Spanish Government are not rare. 

“It is not normal, but it is the reality of the Spanish elite.” 

READ MORE: ‘Gràcies pel vostre suport inspirador‘: Solicitor welcomes think-tank’s support for ex-Catalan ministers legal fund 

Canadell was also critical of the EU, saying that because the same elites are in control of Europe as are in control of Spain: 

“Perhaps what this shows us about the EU is that democracy is not as important as we thought. 

“Perhaps economics is more to the EU than democracy.”

Both of the campaigners agreed that the support and solidarity which had been sent from Scotland to Catalonia had been powerful. 

“The fact is that even if Scottish people do not understand [the arguments for Catalonian independence], all we are asking for is the same as Scotland, to vote,” Joan Canadell said. 

“We only want to vote,” added Marta Oliver. 

In Barcelona, Marta Oliver explained that the independence movement was focussed on being a peaceful movement and exploring what actions it could take next, including a general strike of workers. 

“This is the lesson that all of the EU has to understand,” Canadell said, adding: “It is not just a matter for Catalonia.

“Today is us, tomorrow it might be another part of the EU.”

Picture courtesy of SBA73

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