After giving testimony on the 9N participative process to Catalonia’s High Court of Justice, the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, made it clear that “to give voice to the people and allow them to exercise the right to participation, one should appear before a Parliament, but never before a Court of Law, and even less in a criminal proceeding”, adding “is behaving like a democrat equivalent to behaving like a criminal?”.
In a press conference at the Palau de la Generalitat, the head of the Catalan Government explained that he declared himself “responsible for having taken the political initiative, for having devised and driven” last year’s 9N participative process and for having “listened to hundreds of thousands of people who, in a peaceful, civic and exemplary way, filled Catalonia’s streets, squares and roads in July 2010 and the Septembers of 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015”.
“I am responsible for having listened to more than 90% of the town and city halls of this country, and to have followed the Parliament of Catalonia’s resolutions which urged the Government to carry out a special consultation on the political future of Catalonia”, he continued. “I am responsible for all of this”, he insisted, “and I do not understand how I must appear before a Court of Law for having listened to so many people, for having listened to the town and city halls and for having put forward the ballot boxes”.
In this regard, the President explained that the 9N consultation was initially designed to be executed by the Government’s administration, however since its suspension by the Constitutional Court “it was no longer the administration that was responsible for the execution of the 9N, and instead the responsibility was passed on to the volunteers”.
Consequently, the Head of Government considered that “a strictly political and legal assessment” has been made of this act, and stressed that “the success of the 9N of 2014 and its extensive international attention is what caused these complaints; it’s not a legal matter but a result of the anger brought about by the success of the 9N in various State institutions”. These institutions, Mas asserted, “Could not accept a normal democratic attitude”. “Never should the success of democracy end up appearing before the Courts of Law”, declared the President.
With regards to the show of support expressed by institutions and civilians alike for former vice-president Joana Ortega, the acting Minster of Education, Irene Rigau, and himself, President Mas thanked the extensive backing and said that he “did not understand” the High Court of Justice’s communiqué which spoke of ‘pressure’ against the judicial system. “It should not be understood in this way”, he said, “it is neither pressure nor coercion, it is a display of support and freedom of expression by citizens who have ideas and simply wish to express them”.
Finally, Mas assured that such a process “cannot be broken up by legal procedure against the President of the Generalitat”. The Head of the Executive also made reference to the 2,250,000 people who voted in the 9N and the 77% voter turnout on September 27 as evidence of the willingness of the people of Catalonia wanting to express their right to vote on the political future of the country. Furthermore, the high participation, according to Mas, justified “the willingness to put forward the ballot boxes”.
In a final question from the press, Artur Mas recalled that “what really happened one year ago was that there was a grass-roots movement, a bottom-up movement, from the people who pushed the Catalan institutions […] to let the people have their say”. In response, however, “institutions of the central State in Spain considered that to let the people have their say, to let them vote, is a crime”, a consideration the President expressed as “unbelievable”.