“My sentence will be your sentence.” That’s what I said in court on 18 November when I was being tried on a charge of disobedience for having defended – as it is my duty and obligation to do – freedom of expression and the human rights of all citizens.
The ruling of the High Court of Justice of Catalonia says I committed an act of disobedience and must be banned from holding office as the president of the Government of Catalonia. A court made up of three individuals – devoid of any semblance of impartiality, in legal proceedings plagued with irregularities, spurred on by a prosecutor who has become an advocate for the interests of the Spanish government – is seeking to change a president chosen by the representatives of millions of citizens.
This shows just how disproportionate the actions of the Spanish state have become as it persecutes, criminalises, represses, and seeks to install and remove presidents and governments in Catalonia.
I’ve said it many times before: I won’t be banned from public office by a politically motivated court; this is something that only the Parliament of Catalonia has the power to do. That’s why I’ve asked the parliamentary groups that offered me their support (and any that want to take a stand against repression and the use of the justice system for political ends) to express this position in a vote in Parliament.
It’s not a question of supporting me personally. Rather, what needs to be made absolutely clear is that it’s not the courts – in irregular, politicised proceedings, with rulings drafted before trials even start – that decide who will be the president of Catalonia.
We have to make it clear where the sovereignty of the people of Catalonia lies, because today’s ruling opens the door to judicial excesses and authoritarianism, and it goes against freedom of expression. Parliament needs to reassert its democratic dignity.
For reasons that are clear, my defence team will lodge an appeal against this ruling and once again seek to exercise a right that was not respected by the High Court of Justice; namely, to make a reference to European courts for a preliminary ruling.
Today’s ruling violates fundamental rights, and the level of jurisdiction where these rights are safeguarded – in European courts – needs to take a position before irreparable damage is done that would affect the right of defence of millions of European citizens. In fact, if the right to seek a preliminary ruling had been respected, there wouldn’t be a sentence on the table today.
After observing the political trial in the Supreme Court – a trial that’s led to members of the Government of Catalonia; the speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell; and leaders of Catalonia’s main civil organisations being sentenced to 100 years in prison – I have no trust whatsoever in the Spanish justice system. Neither does it inspire any trust to see European arrest warrants issued for President Puigdemont and the exiled ministers based on political criteria.
However, we have no choice but to lodge an appeal in order to exhaust national remedies before taking this case – one that centres on the defence of freedom of expression – to the heart of Europe. We need to go beyond Spain’s borders to seek the justice we are denied here.
On this very day, we have seen how justice is done in Europe. The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that Vice-President Oriol Junqueras should, right now, be an MEP representing the citizens who voted for him and that he should have enjoyed the immunities attached to that status from the time of the official declaration of the results. This is a ruling that has direct implications for President Carles Puigdemont and Minister Toni Comín, who were also denied their democratic rights.
I demand that the Supreme Court trial be declared a mistrial, that the political prisoners be immediately released, that the exiles be free to return home, and that the politically motivated legal proceedings against supporters of independence be terminated. The Spanish state must recognise its mistakes and the violations of rights that have been committed. It also needs to take urgent action to remedy the current situation and seek a democratic solution that includes the exercise of Catalonia’s right to self-determination.
While Europe exemplifies how justice is done, Spain continues on the path of repression.
The ruling issued today by the High Court of Justice of Catalonia demonstrates yet again the lack of concord between Catalan democratic legitimacy and Spanish law, particular as it is used by the state. In the face of this clash of democratic legitimacy, we can never retreat in our defence of the rights gained by generations and generations of Catalans who have fought hard to win them.
The exercise of democracy, with full freedom of expression, does not belong to any president of the Government of Catalonia; it belongs to all Catalan people. That’s why, as the holder of this office, with the dignity it entails, I cannot yield or sacrifice any of the social, civil and political rights of Catalan citizens.
The repression hasn’t stopped. A government led by the Socialist Party didn’t put an end to it. Neither did a prime minister invested with the votes of pro-independence parties in a vote of no confidence. The blank cheques and advance payments achieved nothing.
Today’s ruling – my sentence, my conviction – was predictable. It was written before the trial took place. The defeat suffered by the prosecutor and the private prosecution did no good. We are faced with political courts whose judgements reflect political motivations. In short, there’s no justice for those who advocate independence.
As I said, we will lodge an appeal with the Supreme Court, where we will again raise the technical issues and the reference for a preliminary ruling that the High Court of Justice refused to submit.
The ruling announced today is a highly political one. Its sole purpose is to ban me from public office and interfere in the political situation in Catalonia. This justice is not blind or impartial; it’s partisan and completely unfair.
I would like to express my gratitude for the support and expressions of solidarity I’ve received in recent hours and throughout this process, which is still not over.
We will not fail. I repeat once again what I said before the court: we will continue to pursue our political objective, which is political, legitimate, democratic and has majority support: the independence of Catalonia – a free Catalan republic.
Thank you very much.