Speaking from Madrid today, Catalan President Quim Torra said: “If the Spanish state reaches a point of such absolute irresponsibility as to disqualify me, only one party will be to blame: the state itself. I'm not the one who will bring Catalonia, at such a critical time, through an irresponsible electoral period that will paralyse the Catalan administration.”
In an official statement, the head of the executive stressed that the Supreme Court would be passing judgement on “a democratic and legitimate president for having defended free speech, justice for political prisoners, and the return of those in exile […]. They don’t want to disqualify me for just any banner, but for one defending fundamental rights that are denied to us.”
After appearing at a Supreme Court hearing on an appeal lodged by his defence team against a judgement for disobedience given by the High Court of Justice of Catalonia (for not removing a banner in support of political prisoners and exiles from the façade of the Catalan government headquarters when ordered to do so), the president said that his is “a peaceful, inclusive, positive and democratic cause [that is also] legally legitimate according to international declarations and treaties on fundamental rights”. Consequently, he argued, barring him from public office is “an utterly disproportionate legal action, lacking all sense of justice”. Torra said the response of the Spanish justice system shows that “repression and the judicialisation of politics have gone too far”.
According to the president, the Supreme Court judges now have the opportunity to “put right an aberrant judicial process, which is further proof of the accelerating decadence of this democracy with feet of clay, which they try to pass off as consolidated, mature and comparable to others”. He added that Spanish democracy “fails all stress tests when held to account in Europe [and] is defeated in European courts whenever it tries to take one of the indecent shortcuts to which we’ve become so accustomed.” The head of the executive stressed that the judges “have no right or justification [to remove another Catalan president from office], and we are not afraid of them”.
The unity of Spain above all else
In his statement, the president also decried that “we live in a state that tramples on the most basic notions of democracy, justice and fundamental rights due to an authoritarian dogma that defends the indivisible unity of the fatherland, their fatherland. Our lives are subject to the greatest judicial arbitrariness of recent times, as the full weight of state apparatus has swung into action to prevent the success of a peaceful, democratic project.”
Torra argued that the Spanish state is one that “leaves citizens defenceless due to their ideology and opinion rather than standing up for rights and freedoms, a state that structurally and deliberately impoverishes the Catalan-speaking countries by depriving them of their resources”. He also said Spain has shown that it is a state “incapable of reform or being reformed in any way, [and which] overturns any social legislation passed by the Parliament of Catalonia”.
The president decried that “the indivisible unity of what they consider Spain is and should be comes before the independence of the judiciary, the requirement for neutral police forces, and the democratic decency of parliaments”.
In this context, Torra said: “Our decision could not be clearer: either the decadence of a monarchical Spain that is an embarrassment to Europe or the hope of a Catalan Republic committed to its people.”
The president warned: “The attitude shown by the Spanish state towards the Catalan independence movement over the next few months will set the moral and ethical foundations for its future. Without a firm and urgent rectification, Spain will seal its failure as a modern European state. Allowing Catalonia to exercise its right to self-determination is a great historic opportunity for Spain to drag itself into the 21st century.”
The head of the executive also argued that his prosecution is not just a punishment for not removing a banner, “but a punishment for a whole country in the middle of a pandemic, [which shows] the Spanish state’s obsession with its campaign of revenge against Catalonia’s democratic aspirations”.
Message to the Catalan people
Speaking from the office of the Government of Catalonia in Madrid, the president had a message for the Catalan people: “Whatever the judges now decide, even if it goes against a parliament’s democratic mandate, must not force us to cede one inch in our political convictions and goals. Neither judges, nor administrators, nor military forces – no one can cut back the sovereignty of the Parliament of Catalonia by even a millimetre.”
Torra said he has “no personal ambition that might get in the way of the broad, collective project to achieve independence” and stressed his “unflinching commitment to [his] country and freedom”. He also reiterated that he will “fight the pandemic 24 hours a day right up to the last moment, until my disqualification comes into force, if that is what the Supreme Court ultimately decides”. The president concluded be stressing that he is “completely dedicated to the battle against the pandemic and its economic and social consequences”.