More than 120 law professors and lecturers reject the charges of rebellion and sedition against Catalonia’s political prisoners

The signatories denounce the "persistent attempts to equate the Process with the existence of violence”

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Més de 120 catedràtics i professors de Dret refusen les acusacions de rebel·lió i sedició contra els presos polítics

BarcelonaAccording to, over one hundred university law professors and lecturers from Spanish universities have signed a public statement in which they reject the charges of rebellion and sedition being brought against the pro-independence leaders who will shortly stand trial before Spain’s Supreme Court, due to the absence of any violence in Catalonia’s independence bid. Entitled, "The trivialization of crimes of rebellion and sedition", the jurists warn that the interpretation made by the Prosecutor's Office and the Solicitor General, "paves the way for the trivialisation" of two crimes "virtually unheard of in democratic times and with an unfortunate past", in reference to Colonel Tejero and the other participants in the 23-F [23 February 1981] attempted coup.

The academics also condemn the fact that the Public Prosecutor's Office has "turned the exercise of fundamental rights into a crime", referring to the freedom of assembly and the right to protest. According to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the plan to bring about independence included the use of "the degree of violence necessary" by the Catalan police and the "riotous" demonstrations by Òmnium and the ANC. According to the manifesto, "for the Prosecutor's Office, the danger lies in inciting demonstrations", whereas the academics argue that during the demonstration outside the Ministry of the Economy on September 20 or the events which took place between October 1 and 3 "the necessary levels of violence" to constitute the crime of rebellion "did not take place". The document goes on to say that "the only thing that the Attorney General has shown so far is that all the demonstrations which took place only sought a referendum through peaceful and democratic means", going on to say that they see in the prosecutors "persistent attempts to equate the Catalan independence process with the existence of violence".

However, according to the manifesto’s signatories, the crime of sedition was never committed during the process since, "at no time has any proof been provided that the indicted caused, provoked or participated in a riotous uprising with the intention of obstructing the rule of law, unless it is understood that it is sufficient to incite the right to protest, in other words, the exercise of a fundamental right".

The document was initiated by the professors of criminal law at the universities of Jaén, Castilla-La Mancha and Granada, Guillermo Portilla, Nicolás García Rivas and Maria Luisa Maqueda; joined by the professors of criminal law at the universities of A Coruña and Valencia, José Ángel Brandariz and Javier Mira Benavent. Numerous lecturers in criminal law in various Spanish universities have also added their support, such as Manuel Cancio (Autonomous University of Madrid), Jacobo Dopico (Carlos III University), Luigi Foffani (University of Modena), Patricia Laurenzo (University of Málaga) and Joan Queralt (University of Barcelona).

The academics see the sentences which are being asked for, totalling 25 years in the case of the Prosecutor General and 12 in the case of the Attorney General, as a consequence of the inappropriate application of the crimes of rebellion and sedition. They argue that calling for such severe prison sentences is "highly questionable”, based on the principle of proportionality, which ought to form the basis of any interpretation of the law.

The statement goes on to say that, "Only by gravely violating the principle of criminal legality can one conclude that the defendants, in light of the actions attributed to them, committed the crime of rebellion or conspiracy to commit rebellion, which also requires the existence of violence". It is also highly critical of the prosecution’s decision to "deviate" from Constitutional doctrine in the 1-O case in relation to the crime of rebellion, which calls for the explicit use of violence, with the use of weapons for example.

The document also points out, as did a hundred academics at the start of the case, the fact that the National Court —the court which originally heard the charges against the former ministers and which sent them to prison without bail— is not the competent body to investigate 1-O. As a result, the manifesto concludes by calling for the release of the nine leaders jailed "for non-existent crimes", and for a full investigation into what happened during the pro-independence process based on "respect for the principle of criminal law, since only within such boundaries do opportunity, proportionality and justice ever exist".