What the Popular Party started, the Socialist Party has finished. What Mariano Rajoy started, Pedro Sánchez has finished. What politics started, the justice system is now finishing. What was started by all those media, both here and over there, who are deliriously hostile to the Catalan independence movement, is now being finished by a cold press release from the Spanish public prosecution service. On Friday, November 2nd, the "let's go get 'em" police-action side of article 155 has now met its corollary, in an absurd indictment from the state prosecutors, setting down in black and white the unreal narrative of last year's events, first on September 20th and then during the independence referendum on October 1st.
In total, more than 200 years of prison are sought from those members of the Catalan government in jail or on bail who have not gone into exile, as well as from the leaders of civil groups Òmnium and the ANC, the Parliament's presiding bureau - significantly its former speaker, Carme Forcadell - along with police chief Josep Lluís Trapero and the police leadership in the Catalan interior ministry. From the 25 years of deprivation of liberty demanded for vice president Oriol Junqueras to the 20 months for the members of the bureau, with the exception of Carme Forcadell, for whom they are asking 17 years. An unmitigated scandal and a fully-fledged ignominy.
The Spanish monarchy which believed it saw in the Catalan situation a lever to consolidate the institution and the reign of Felipe VI has achieved the opposite effect. With the king's speech on October 3rd, 2017, he opened up a chasm in the institutions of the state, placing the monarchy at its lowest level of popularity since the transition - 80% of Catalans give it a 'fail' mark - and moving away irremediably from the citizens who it was also supposed to protect. Today, its situation is untenable in Catalonia, but it also begins to be so in Navarra, the Basque Country and, to a lesser extent, Asturias. The Catalan government and the Barcelona city council have rejected the king in an initiative which, in the coming weeks, will be extended across many Catalan municipal councils. The Esquerra Unida party will seek the same across Spain in a political initiative that until now has been unusual in the Spanish state.
The public prosecutors' indictments are not a surprise to anyone, since they were conveniently leaked hours earlier. To say that a hard line has been laid down is almost reckless, since the false construction of the narrative means that one could hardly have expected anything else from the conclusions. It's better, therefore, not to be deceived: we are not talking about what the Spanish criminal code says and the penalties it foresees. It's just the reverse of that. First, a narrative was created, one that brings with it many years in prison, and only afterwards was there a quest for some evidence to back it up. And when that was not found, as has been visible over the last few months, they went ahead anyway. By the way, can anyone explain to me whether it is normal for defence lawyers to have to ask journalists for the indictments via social media since they haven't yet received them? Or why the Catalan ministers Carles Mundó, Meritxell Borràs and Santi Vila are all facing the same seven-year jail demand when the last on that list resigned hours before the Catalan declaration of independence? Or is it, perhaps, that the proclamation of independence was not a crime?
Nor is the state solicitors' demand clear in their own prosecution of the case: it slightly reduces the penalties asked for, but incorporates the initial argument put when the state first sought convictions for sedition. To put it another way: when the initial claims were made in February under the Popular Party government, the explanation was that it supported the argument that misuse of public funds had taken place. Eight months later and under a Socialist government, the initial idea of misuse of funds is ratified and sedition is added. These are the facts. And while this has happened, the political and media voices of Madrid are calling attention to the fact that the state solicitors have not incorporated the crime of rebellion, while they conceal the detail that the sum of sentences sought for sedition and misuse of funds adds up to the same total prison sentence as the rebellion charge, and indeed, if rebellion was to stand on its own, a misuse of funds sentence would not be cumulative with it. The so-called gesture of Pedro Sánchez is just this, smoke and mirrors. No matter how much fuss they make about this gesture in the Madrid, it won't make them right.
Spain thus places itself in a state of international legal disgrace without seeming to care much about it. In fact, without caring at all. Without learning anything from history. In the past, in defence of Spanish unity, many atrocities have been committed and now history is being repeated. The ending will also be repeated: Spain will lose Catalonia while its rulers beat their chests and prefer authoritarianism to dialogue. The dignified reaction of those who are today in prison is the reflection of the pulse that the independence movement and those close to it experience today. The imposition of a punishment beyond justice denigrates those who enforce it and honours those who receive it. Whoever thinks that the Catalan reaction will be one of submission and compliance does not know just what is driving the people.