ERC's secretary general, Marta Rovira, has said that she is in Switzerland to continue fighting against "savage political repression", to recover her freedom of expression and so that civil and political rights are preserved in Catalonia. In an interview with Catalan news agency ACN, her first with Catalan media since going into exile, Rovira says that she felt forced to take this path under the conviction that Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena would order her to go into pretrial detention.
"What saddens me the most is that I don't know when I'll be able to return. I'm aware that I've left for many years, that I've left behind many, many people that I love, many landscapes, my city, and that my family will have to make a brutal life change," she said. She also revealed that, as soon as she arrived in Switzerland, she presented herself to the "pertinent authorities" and explained to them that she was fleeing "political persecution" and was looking for "protection".
Three weeks after arriving in Switzerland instead of going to the Supreme Court in Madrid, Rovira has explained the reasons behind her choice and the main arguments her defence will use to the international arrest warrant issued against her. Her lawyer in Switzerland is Jean-Marc Carnicé, whose office is in Geneva.
"I've left against my will, obligatorily. Otherwise, what I had to take on were the consequences of an absolutely disproportionate political persecution which doesn't fit in a democratic political system", said Rovira, adding that it was very clear to her that the judge would order her and the other political leaders into pretrial detention and that they had been summonsed to testify as retaliation for having decided to hold a vote on investing Jordi Turull as president of Catalonia. Leaving Catalonia was also a "personal protection measure" for Rovira, thinking about her 7-year-old daughter.
"What saddens me most is that I don't know when I'll be able to return", said Rovira, who is aware that she has left "for many years". She says, however, that being in Switzerland gives her the "chance to continuing fighting".
This fight is for "civil and political rights [to be] preserved" in Catalonia and, secondly, against "the injustice meant by the police and legal persecution" with "absolutely disproportionate" accusations implying violence. ERC's secretary general remarked that her party has always said that it will only defend its ideas by peaceful, democratic means.
One of the arguments which led to her decision to leave for Switzerland was to recover her freedom of expression. According to Rovira, she had felt "absolutely pressurised and threatened" in Catalonia for months. She said she censored herself and was ever more inhibited. "I hope to have arrived here to be able to recover, in part, my freedom of expression, the exercising of my civil and political rights, because in Catalonia it was practically impossible," she concluded.
She choose Switzerland, she said, because it has a political system which allows citizens to have a voice and where votes are held "practically every three months". For these reasons, ERC's second-in-command believed it could be a country which would understand why she argues for the Catalans' right to hold a referendum.
Asked about her schedule in Geneva, Rovira was restrained and only said that she had made "some contacts, very varied and of many types", adding that "there are many people internationally who are interested by what is happening" in Catalonia.
At the disposition of Swiss authorities
According to Rovira, as soon as she arrived in Switzerland, she informed the "pertinent authorities" of her reasons for moving to their country. "We will respect the decisions taken, but we're interested in explaining that we're fleeing from political persecution and that we come to look for protection and the opportunity to continue fighting against the injustice meant by the political persecution," she explained.
Rovira says they have to continue arguing that no violent crime has been committed "to whatever courts necessary and with the awareness that that benefits everyone", referring to the decision from a German court to release Carles Puigdemont on bail and discount extraditing him for the charge of rebellion. According to Rovira, there are certain courts which want to listen to the indicted pro-independence leaders and "seem to be starting" to agree with them, a situation she juxtaposes with the decision taken by Spanish courts.
ERC, a party "up to the task"
Despite the "enormously difficult" period ERC is going through, with its president, Oriol Junqueras, in prison and its secretary general in exile, Rovira expressed conviction that "from the first activist to the last" they will be up to the task. She emphasised that ERC, after 87 years of history, is "not about names" and has frequently had to face up to adverse situations.