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Sometimes, it is worthwhile getting lost in the newspaper libraries. You can end up coming across information that is highly illustrative of what is, at the end the day, the loss of our fundamental freedoms - in the case that we are concerned with here, the violation of the rights to vote and to political representation - and also the backward movement of democracy.

We need to go back to 26th February, 1987, in the Basque parliament, and look at the session of investiture of Juan Karlos Ioldi as a candidate to be Basque prime minister in representation of the parliamentary group of Herri Batasuna, far-left Basque nationalist party. Let's skip the preliminaries. Who was Ioldi? He was an MP-elect, number six on his party's electoral list, 24 years old. And he was also a prisoner being held in preventive detention in the Herrera de la Mancha maximum security prison, accused of membership of an armed group and of the Basque terrorist organization ETA. He had been in a solitary confinement cell for eight months, in which he spent 23 hours of every day. So what happened then? With the goal of focusing as much attention as possible on the plight of the Basque prisoners, Herri Batasuna, which despite contesting elections did not normally take part in the Basque institutions, unexpectedly presented a candidate to Basque prime minister from among its MPs. He was a prisoner who had not been tried, who had no convictions for violent offences and who would end up passing fourteen more years in prison.

That February of 1987, Ioldi took part in the parliamentary investiture session - indeed, as a candidate - having been brought the evening before from the Herrera de la Mancha penitentiary to the prison nearest the Basque parliament, Nanclares de la Oca, in the midst of unprecedented police measures, which even forced the Basque parliamentary speaker of the time, the socialist Jesús Egiguren, to assume certain responsibilities. But Ioldi was able to go to the parliamentary chamber as an MP - the judicial authorities allowed it - there were demonstrations in favour of amnesty for Basque prisoners at the door of parliament, and rights were not restricted.

Almost 31 years after that situation, the Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena has now denied the request from Oriol Junqueras to be present in the constitutive session of the Catalan Parliament on the 17th January to be able to cast his vote, and has forced him to delegate his vote. A situation that also applies to the other two MPs who are imprisoned, Jordi Sànchez and Joaquim Forn. If the fact of these three MPs being held in preventive prison is anomalous enough - without forgetting the fourth prisoner, Jordi Cuixart - still stranger is the instruction issued by the Supreme Court and which in its totality ends up adding to the sensation that the accused are in a juridically unstable situation. Let's be clear: how can one explain and justify that the rights given to an ETA prisoner which were recognized in the constitution cannot be equally applied for Junqueras, Sànchez and Forn?

Preventive prison not only must not give the image of being an actual sentence to which a court has condemned a prisoner, but it also must not end up simply being so, de facto, by allowing the rights of the MPs who are in prison to be neglected in practice. Justice means much more than this. One cannot avoid being ashamed seeing how Junqueras, Sànchez and Forn are treated and observing how the Supreme Court, for example, claims for itself competencies which it does not possess, which in fact belong to Parliament - in the name of a presumed clash of constitutional interests. Specifically, in order to deprive the prisoners of the right to attend Parliament and to force a particular interpretation of the delegation of the vote.

But let's not miss the broader point: what has happened so that the Spanish state ends up depriving pacifists of the rights that 30 years ago it recognized as applying to members of the ETA terrorist group? Can anybody really affirm that our liberties have not gone backward?

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