Virtually a hundred years in prison for nine innocent people. That's the summing up of the sentence imposed on Catalan pro-independence leaders by the Spanish Supreme Court judges presided over by Manuel Marchena, a decision officially announced this Monday at 9.30am - although it is a euphemism to put it like that, since it had been deliberately leaked over the weekend in an action that is improper for a serious European country. The verdicts and sentences are for many, and the judges who drafted it will have to forgive me, an act of revenge and infamy of the State. Only a country that is weak and persecuted by its historical ghosts, and condemned by them to sit at the lowest level of democratic quality in the European Union, would have been able to carry out such flagrant violations of rights, which will be in a very distant future uncovered by a response from European justice, but which today represent the greatest judicial aggression in many decades against Catalan political leaders and, inevitably, make us recall what the most vengeful version of Spain did in its day with Catalan president Lluís Companys.
In this commentary, urgent and necessarily incomplete, I want to emphasize three aspects: the sentences are very harsh, terribly and exaggeratedly harsh. The fact that seven of the nine political prisoners until now in provisional prison have been sentenced to a double-digit deprivation of their liberty says it all. The imposition of an exemplary punishment on the Catalan independence movement, a phrase that was so often used to describe what was going to happen, has been consummated. The televised speech by king Felipe VI on October 3rd, 2017, two days after the independence referendum, has in general been heard, interpreted and interiorized. The justice system has acted in a case that the politicians should never have put in its hands, not only out of responsibility but out of obligation. Two Spanish prime ministers, Mariano Rajoy and Pedro Sánchez, have been shown to be seriously deficient, by action or by default.
Secondly, the guilty verdicts are unacceptable in the case of each and every one of the nine accused prisoners: from the 13 years of imprisonment and 13 year's prohibition on office holding imposed on Oriol Junqueras, to the nine years' prison and the same period banned from office for Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart; in between, Jordi Turull, Raül Romeva and Dolors Bassa (12 years' jail), Carme Forcadell (11 years 6 months), Joaquim Forn and Josep Rull (10 years 6 months). A separate mention is required for the penalty imposed on the ex-speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell, due to the uniqueness of her case: she was convicted after allowing the Catalan chamber to discuss parliamentary initiatives. Does anyone seriously believe that this is in line with the real sense of a parliamentary system? The international support for Forcadell from speakers of regional parliaments, MEPs and more than 500 parliamentary representatives from 25 countries shows up the Spanish singularity with regard to the importance of a parliamentary debate. Something similar can be said of the Jordis - Sanchez and Cuixart - always peaceful activists; as they were once again on 20th September, 2017, when their attitudes were exemplary and aimed at reducing tension. Could it not be that the punishments given out to Forcadell, Sànchez and Cuixart have a lot to do with who they are, and what positions they occupied, rather than what they actually did?
Spain goes back into that time tunnel from which some people, ingenuously, used to believe that it had finally emerged. Former Socialist politician Perez Rubalcaba was quite correct when he predicted in January 2018 that the Spanish state would have to pay the cost of getting Carles Puigdemont out of the road, a way of saying that the whole of the independence movement had to be decapitated. Nobody knew like Rubalcaba what measures the State could resort to, although he may have forgotten that Spain was not the only actor in a political situation that was new and has only just begun. The mobilizations announced over the next days and weeks will mark the level of indignation and response of Catalan society to this trampling. Because the court sentences only provide the response from one of the parties involved, and the most predictable one. The rest, we will see from now on.