Misc 24/09/2020

An official pardon or a modicum of political decency

When granted, a full pardon will restore a modicum of political decency in Spain. But a pardon is not an amnesty, nor the key issue in the Barcelona-Madrid referendum talks that haven’t kicked off yet

Antoni Bassas
3 min

On Wednesday, during question time in parliament, Spain’s Justice minister Juan Carlos Campo announced that next week he will start to review several pardon requests in the case of the Catalan political prisoners. Junts per Catalunya spokesperson in the Spanish parliament, Laura Borràs, urged the Spanish government “to sort out the conflict you currently have with Catalonia, where up to 2,850 people have suffered reprisals, according to Òmnium Cultural’s count”. Justice minister Campos replied that “this government is also considering the matter of an official pardon; incidentally, the one that concerns individuals close to you will be reviewed next week. Why don’t you join this government in its project for Spain?”

In December Catalan lawyer Francesc Jufresa filed a request for a pardon for all the jailed Catalan leaders. Then, last summer, trade union UGT lodged a similar one for former Catalan minister Dolors Bassa and the former Speakers of the Catalan parliament did the same for their jailed colleague, Carme Forcadell. So far the Spanish authorities had explained that no progress had been made due to the coronavirus emergency. However, now they have vowed to start reviewing the request next week. The Spanish minister stressed that the PSOE-Podemos coalition government remains committed to amend the crime of sedition in Spain’s criminal code [whose current wording allowed for the conviction of the Catalan leaders].

However, the review process will be lengthy: between four and six months, as the Supreme Court must first hear all the interested parties, including the Public Prosecution. Therefore, if they are relying on an official pardon, the Catalan political prisoners will spend another Christmas in jail, in all likelihood. This is a particularly painful time to entertain that thought, as Jordi Turull’s father passed away on Tuesday while his son, one of the jailed Catalan ministers, remains in jail with no leave because Supreme Court judge Antonio Marchena has taken it upon himself to make sure he doesn’t receive any. So much so, that Justice Marchena cautioned the Catalan prison service staff preventatively, warning them against allowing the political prisoners to spend the covid lockdown at home. This is despite a UN recommendation issued worldwide advising national authorities to send home as many prison inmates as safely possible in order to thwart the pandemic. Readers will recall that shameful instruction whereby prison directors were asked to name the prison staff who endorsed the idea and threatened them with criminal charges for a hypothetical crime of wilful neglect of duty.

Earlier I mentioned that MP Laura Borràs quoted an estimate by grassroots group Òmnium Cultural: the 2017 Catalan independence bid has left 2,850 people facing legal action. On Wednesday this newspaper interviewed one of them, someone who made the front pages a year ago: Xavier Duch, who was arrested at his Sabadell home for being a CDR activist [Committees for the Defence of the Republic]. Spanish Guardia Civil kicked his front door in and arrested him in front of his partner and children and charged with terrorism. He was released three months later. Since then Duch has had an ictus that has left him with a speech impediment. He said to our colleague Xavi Tedó that “they had no evidence that morning of 23 September 2019 and they have no evidence now. It was a political operation to try to stop the pro-independence movement before the ruling was handed down [in the case of the jailed Catalan leaders]”. Let’s not forget how far the State went: a combined effort of the judiciary and the police to try to present independence supporters as terrorists. Do you remember how they used to go on about “[Catalan president Quim] Torra must condemn violence”?

An official pardon is good news and it would remedy the fact that nine political leaders were convicted of crimes they never committed. When granted, a full pardon will restore a modicum of political decency in Spain. But a pardon is not an amnesty, nor the key issue in the Barcelona-Madrid referendum talks that haven’t kicked off yet.

My thoughts are with front line workers, those who are suffering, the Catalan political prisoners and exiles. Have a nice day, everyone.