Catalonia’s Independence leaders are now on trial. Who are they and how can we support them?
Today in Madrid, 12 democratically elected political leaders and activists will be put on trial for organizing a vote. They are facing sentences that range from 7 to 30 years in prison each, for alleged crimes that include sedition, rebellion and misusing public funds.
This is the fallout of a referendum that took place in Catalonia back in October 2017, organized by the pro-independence government of Carles Puigdemont. The subject of the referendum was of course to decide whether or not the region of Catalonia should fully separate from Spain and become its own independent republic.
Voting day was met with police brutality as ballot boxes were confiscated, protesters were kettled and tear gassed, and even elderly voters were beaten in the streets as they cast their votes. Many people were seriously injured and even arrested for exercising their right to free expression and engaging in the democratic process.
Among those arrested are the leaders of Catalonia’s independence movement, most of whom are still in jail to this day. Several are politicians that were elected to the Catalan parliament and have since been removed by Spain’s central government, at the time led by Mariano Rajoy and today by Pedro Sánchez. Some are involved in cultural organizations and grassroots activism. What they all have in common is that they believe in self-determination for the Catalan people, and they took action to make sure self-determination is what the Catalan people got. Spain responded to this by invoking article 155 of the constitution, which suspended Catalonia’s autonomy and allowed the central government of Spain to dismiss the Catalan government and take control over the region.
In other words, Spain’s desperate response to an independence vote was to tighten the leash on Catalonia, imprison democratically-elected leaders and citizens, and use as much violence as possible in the streets to prevent people from casting ballots — quite counter-intuitive if you’re trying to prevent someone, or in this case an entire region, from breaking up with you.
So here we go. The trial of the 12 Catalan independence leaders will begin today, 3 having been released on bail and 9 currently imprisoned. This trial is expected to take at least a few months and the world will be watching very closely.
Some of us would like to do more than watch. We would like to support these political prisoners directly and make sure they know that not only is the world watching but we stand by them and they are not alone. We want to keep their spirits up while they sit in prison and go through this trial which, unless it results in their freedom, will absolutely be a miscarriage of justice by the Spanish courts and a government which has already deemed them guilty. So send them your love, support and encouragement during this time.
Below you will find the names and photos of each Catalan leader held as a political prisoner by Spain, with a brief description of who they are as well as their mailing address. Please only send letters and postcards, and only use white envelopes…the prison authorities in Madrid do not like yellow in particular. :)
Dolors Bassa Coll
Former Counselor of Labour, Social Affairs and Families. She is also a trade unionist and educator. She was first imprisoned in November 2017, released a month later, and imprisoned again in March 2018.
Jordi Cuixart I Navarro
Businessman, political activist and president of Catalan cultural non-profit Òmnium Cultural. He has been imprisoned since Oct.2017 for participating in, and allegedly organizing protests in response to the Operation Anubis police raids leading up to the Independence Referendum.
Carme Forcadell Lluis
Long-time independence activist and former president of Catalan parliament. She was also involved in Catalan cultural organizations including Òmnium Cultural, and president of the Catalan National Assembly. She has been imprisoned since March 2018.
Joaquim Forn I Chiariello
Former deputy mayor of Barcelona and one of the Catalan government’s Interior Ministers until he was removed from office in October 2017, after the Independence Referendum. He has been jailed since November 2017.
Oriol Junqueras I Vies
Former Vice-President of Catalonia until he was removed from office in October 2017 after the Independence Referendum and eventual Declaration of Independence. He is the leader of the pro-independence party Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC). He has been jailed since November 2017.
Raül Romeva Rueda
Pro-Independence politician and former member of the European parliament, sitting on their foreign affairs committee and the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. He was the Catalan Minister for External and Institutional Relations and Transparency until his removal by the Spanish government in October 2017. He was jailed for the 2nd time in March 2018.
Josep Rull I Andreu
Catalan politician since 1989 and former Counselor for Territory and Sustainability until his removal from office in October 2017. In November 2017 he was arrested for his role in the Independence Referendum and eventually released on bail, only to be jailed once again in March 2018.
Jordi Sànchez I Picanyol
Political activist and president of the Catalan National Assembly until shortly after his imprisonment in October 2017, for his alleged role in organizing mass protests in response to the Operation Anubis police raids leading up to the Independence Referendum. In March 2018 he was nominated to succeed Carles Puigdemont as president of the Junts per Catalunya party.
Jordi Turull Negre
Former government spokesperson under Carles Puigdemont and former presidential candidate after Jordi Sànchez. He is a member of the Catalan European Democratic Party. He was first arrested in November 2017, released on bail and then jailed again in March 2018.
The following 3 people have also been charged and are facing prison time, but are released on bail and are not currently imprisoned. However, they still deserve our support. I do not have mailing addresses for them at this time but here are photos and descriptions so that you know who they are.
Carles Mundó i Blanch
Lawyer, former Counselor of Justice and member of the Republican Left of Catalonia. He was imprisoned in November 2017 and released on bail the following month. He is facing 7 years in prison for charges of disobedience and embezzlement.
Meritxell Borràs i Solé
Former pharmacist and Minister of Governance and Institutional Relations. She is a member of the Catalan European Democratic Party. She was imprisoned in November 2017 and is facing 7 years in prison on charges of embezzlement and disobedience.
Historian, former Counselor of Business and Culture, and former member of the Catalan European Democratic Party. He was arrested in November 2017, released on bail and faces up to 7 years in prison on disobedience and embezzlement charges.