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Massive frustration in the Spanish press in response to the transfer of the Catalan political prisoners to Catalan prisons. Most of the major Madrid newspapers are severely critical of Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez for "giving in to the blackmail" of the independence movement and moving the imprisoned politicians to Catalonia, even though the decision corresponds to a right that every remand prisoner has.

In fact, the Spanish PM got his rebuttal in pre-emptively when he stated on Monday that the transfer was simply a case of "compliance with the law", since prisoners must be located in the area where they have their "social roots" when the investigative part of the case has been completed and, therefore, he underlined, no political influence can be imputed in the move.

Nevertheless, neither Ciudadanos (Cs) nor the Popular Party (PP) had any time for this argument, and although in the past they have always insisted on the importance of not questioning judicial decisions, they now attack this situation because they believe that it smells of "populist concessions", among other criticisms they level. And the Spanish press has also added its voice to these same criticisms, in its almost daily practice of 'trial by media' of decisions related to the independence process that it does not like.

Major error

El Mundo, in an editorial entitled "A prison privilege", launches an attack on Sánchez "for giving in to one of the main demands of the independence movement", which, says the paper, is precisely this, the transfer of the prisoners. Considering that the Spanish PM is thus "paying off one of the debts which allowed him to form a government", the newspaper notes "that Sánchez has not stopped making winks [toward Quim Torra] since he was voted in as PM".

The newspaper criticises that Sánchez did not even lift a finger against the reopening of the Catalan representative offices abroad or the nomination of Meritxell Serret as delegate for the Catalan government in Brussels. With the ammunition of all these arguments, El Mundo calls it a "major error to transfer those responsible for the coup attempt to Catalan prisons" because, on the one hand, it "signifies a gesture of obvious weakness on the part of the new Spanish government" and, on the other, because penitentiary policy is something too serious to be left at the mercy of Sánchez's ambition and partisan recipes", but also because the pro-independence leaders who will now be located in Catalan prisons will be in the custody of the Catalan government".

Because of all this, the Madrid daily is worried. Very worried. And the thing is, according to its point of view, "the transfer of the accused politicians right now cannot do anything else but allow the independence to take flight again and, moreover, it will mean that Catalan president Torra will hold the reins on the custody of prisoners who are his political colleagues".

Smile with no dialogue

La Razón, for its part, affirms that this "is a concession which, although legal, opens up many unknown factors, since Catalonia is the only Spanish autonomous community which has the competencies to manage prisons" and it adds that this "confirms that the Catalan government has redoubled its campaign against parliamentary monarchy, which, in turn, affects the Spanish government".

As well, the paper's director, Francisco Marhuenda, says in his commentary that this is a "reality check" for Sánchez because his party thought that "by smiling and looking handsome, the Catalan problem could be solved, but as they do not know Catalonia, the problem remains".

Marhuenda reminds the Spanish prime minister that, in his view, "the only dialogue that thsoe in the Catalan independence movement want to have is about the path to independence, they want a referendum and nothing else, they don't give a damn about anything else" and he asks rhetorically: "For all the amiability, niceness and charm that Sánchez wants to demonstrate, what does it really mean? A big fat nothing".

La Razón writer Toni Bolaño goes a step further and, after mentioning that "Sánchez's arrival in government left the independence movement slightly wrong-footed, a little unsure on the direction to take and with its internal divisions showing through", he has no problem in putting forward his own theories: "Artadi has only one objective: leaving Puigdemont in golden exile and forcing Torra to present his abdication and make her into president of the Generalitat".

Fast-track surprise

Meanwhile the digital daily El Español shows its surprise at the "fast track" taken by Spain's interior ministry - through its prison administration department - in authorizing the transfer to Catalan prisons of the prisoners, because - using the same argument as other media - the Catalan government holds the competencies on penitentiary administration in its own territory.

Criticizing that an agreement has been reached on assigning the politicians to "so-called five-star prisons", those offering the best services, the newspaper warns that the "lunacy" of moving the political prisoners "will have consequences" because, it asserts, "the leaders whom it has been possible to charge, since they did not flee, will be guarded by those that did flee, since it must be kept in mind that Puigdemont is still the one who pulls the strings in the Catalan government and is bent on maintaining a permanent provocation".

Moreover, El Español warns that this year's celebration of the Catalan national day, on September 11th will be "a giant pilgrimage to the prisons", at the same time as it highlights that Sánchez "is beginning to ruin his image with a decision which demonstrates that he is "in debt to those who helped him to power" and concludes that "the transfer of the prisoners is too high a price, which under no circumstances should have been paid without a prior commitment by the Catalan authorities to obey the constitution and respect the rules of play".