Fifty-two deputies from the French National Assembly, representing a large part of the political spectrum, have expressed their concern about the situation of the Catalan political prisoners and the need to find a democratic solution in Catalonia.
In a letter published today in Le Journal du Dimanche, the 52 members of the French parliament's lower house say they are "perturbed about the repression against the elected Catalans in Spain" and for this reason wish to express their "concern and disapproval of what we believe is a violation of fundamental freedoms and the exercise of democracy".
The statement asserts that "political debate cannot be resolved through repression" and recalls that there are Catalan politicians who "risk being sentenced to harsh prison terms" for "having wanted to organize a vote."
"Respect for institutional norms is one thing, but we believe that political debate cannot be decided by repression, by attacks on people's rights, by a kind of crime based on one's opinion," add the French deputies, who conclude that, "like many voices in Spain and elsewhere, we demand the lowering of tensions and the end of the arbitrary measures that affect representatives elected under universal suffrage."
Mélenchon, among the signatories
Among the signatories of the manifesto are the president of the centrist liberal UDI party, Jean-Christophe Lagarde, the general secretary of the French Communist party, Fabien Roussel, and the leader of the left-wing La France Insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon. There are also former left-wing ministers such as Marie-George Buffet and Sylvia Pinel.
The manifesto follows an earlier declaration last March, when 41 French senators from a range of different parties signed another manifesto to claim "respect for fundamental rights and freedoms in Catalonia", denouncing the "repression" against Catalan politicians. In that text, they also warned that the situation represented a "real attack on democratic rights and freedoms."
The senators' letter provoked controversy with the Spanish authorities, and foreign minister Josep Borrell spoke out about what he considered an "alarming level of misinformation" among the senators. The French government had to issue a statement asserting that it was France's role to interfere with or make judgments about Spanish affairs.