‘No referendum can ever be illegal’: Clara Ponsati comes out fighting, as #SNP18 pass motion of solidarity


A resolution in support of the Catalan academic threatened with extradition for her role in the Catalan independence referendum was passed unanimously

AN EMERGENCY RESOLUTION expressing the SNP’s solidarity for St Andrews academic Professor Clara Ponsati has been passed unopposed by the SNP at the Spring conference in Aberdeen.

Ponsati, the former Catalan education minister, is one of several Catalan political exiles around Europe currently battling extradition back to Spain under European Arrest Warrants, issued in response to their role in the Catalan independence referendum of October, 2017.

Seconding the resolution, her lawyer, the noted human rights advocate Aamer Anwar, told the conference to thunderous applause: “The SNP is more than just a political party – it has built a movement for independence which at its heart has always had the principles of justice, freedom and equality.

“And that is why, as internationalists, wherever injustice takes place, whether in Palestine or on the streets of Barcelona, we can never, ever be silent.”

Reiterating what has become the driving force behind his argument, articulated earlier today at a fringe conference meeting organised by the Young Scots for Independence, Anwar argued that the only guilt for the events surrounding the Catalan plebiscite lay with the Spanish authorities, and the government which dispatched them in an effort to suppress a vote which, Ponsati and Anwar argued today, broke no law, despite the ruling of the Spanish Constitutional Court.

“Shame on those who sided with the corrupt Spanish Government. How can you call it undemocratic for a people to vote?” Clara Ponsati lawyer Aamer Anwar

“On 1 October, the Spanish state was desperate to criminalise the Catalans’ aspiration to decide their own destiny,” Anwar said.

He echoed Ponsati’s defiant claim earlier in the day when he said: “Let me say this: no referendum can ever be illegal.”

Reiterating his belief that the legacy of Francoism persists within modern Spain, Anwar told the conference: “Never forget, that in 1939, the fascist Franco marched into Barcelona with his troops and unleashed a reign of terror over four decades. We must never see a return to those dark days.

“Let me say it clear to all those so-called silent democrats and all those so-called silent social justice warriors in Scotland: there is no point in standing in solidarity with the people of Barcelona last year, when terrorists attacked their freedoms on the streets of La Ramblas, yet now you close your eyes and ears when their freedoms and democratic institutions are under attack from the Spanish state. When half their government is put in prison, and the rest in exile.

“Shame on those who sided with the corrupt Spanish Government. How can you call it undemocratic for a people to vote? How can you call it undemocratic, when they threaten 750 mayors with arrest? Undemocratic when they boasted about decapitating a democratically elected Catalan Government, and unleashed 15,000 Spanish security forces on the people of Catalonia?”

READ MORE: Analysis: As Clara Ponsati fights for her freedom, the Spanish legal system goes on trial

Anwar continued: “Conference, there is a statue in Glasgow just two minutes from my office called La Pasionara – ‘no pasaran!’ That monument is dedicated to 534 Scottish volunteers of the International Brigade who left Scotland and died fighting against Franco and his fascists.

“If that proud memory means anything at all, then our trade unions, our political parties – whether they are SNP, whether they are Labour, whether they are Green – should unite in solidarity with the people of Catalonia.”

If Ponsati is extradited and convicted at the age of 61, she could potentially face a sentence of 33 years and die in a Madrid prison, Anwar said: “Silence is not an option for those on the side of justice.”

Addressing the cheering crowds on the conference floor, Ponsati herself said: “Thank you. That’s about all I need to say today – thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Speaking earlier alongside Anwar and SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC, who acted as an international election observer during the Catalan referendum, Ponsati said: “It’s amazing the support we are getting from the Scottish people, and we’re very grateful.

“The referendum was not illegal. The referendum is never illegal in a democracy, and it’s not illegal in Spain…it’s true – we could not manage an agreement with the Spanish authorities to organise an agreed referendum, like you had about your own independence.

“The referendum was not illegal. The referendum is never illegal in a democracy, and it’s not illegal in Spain.” Clara Ponsati

“The Catalan people have been fighting for their own self-determination very actively for the last ten years; the movement has picked up a lot in the past five years. All along, there was a demand for an agreement on a referendum. And the Spanish authorities have always chosen to ignore these demands.

“So, it was the duty of the Catalan parliament to organise that referendum. The voters had given us a mandate – we were obliged to do it. Besides, it’s not illegal; we’ve done nothing illegal.

Ponsati continued: “The Spanish authorities have manipulated the judiciary, manipulated the reading of the law, manipulated the facts, and they have opened these challenges which are totally, totally illegal themselves. What is illegal is what the judiciary is doing.

“So, at the end of the day, yes, there is an article in the Spanish constitution that was approved many, many years ago, and has not been revisited, that says that Spain is a united, indivisible kingdom. But human rights and self-determination as a human right are founding elements of Spanish democracy.

“What is going on here is that Spanish nationalism, in their desperate defence of this sacred united, are prepared to sacrifice democracy.”

Picture: CommonSpace