Petition for the release of Spain’s political prisoners
and for fair elections in Catalonia on December 21st

Addressed to:

The United Nations, Mr. António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

The European Council, Mr. Donald Tusk, President of the European Council

The European Commission, Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission

In the wake of the Referendum on Independence and the subsequent Catalan Parliament’s proclamation of independence, the Spanish government dissolved the Catalan Parliament, deposed the Catalan government, and arrested eight members of the cabinet, including its vice-president. Although Spain has tried to extradite Catalonia’s president and the remaining four ministers, who are currently in Belgium in an effort to ensure a fair hearing, their efforts have been so far unsuccessful. The Spanish prosecutor’s comparison of the October 1st referendum on Catalan independence with an “armed coup d’état” reveals Spain’s untenable position.

The Spanish government’s appeal to the rule of law cannot disguise a political persecution of an extent and intensity not seen since the Franco dictatorship. The government’s obvious goal is to not only instill fear in the Catalan people by censorship, arrests and threats before the referendum, but also by the overwhelming brutal police violence that was visited upon peaceful voters on October 1st itself. Furthermore, this has continued since the referendum, by extending judicial persecution to civil servants, mayors, teachers, journalists, and any person who voices opinions on behalf of the citizens’ peaceful exercise of their democratic rights.

Spanish president Mariano Rajoy has called for snap elections in Catalonia on December 21st, while prominent members of his government and the Senate have simultaneously declared their intention to ignore any victory of pro-independence parties. Even without the incarceration of prominent political leaders and would-be candidates, their mistreatment in custody and persistent far-right violence against journalists and citizens, the response of the Spanish government is hardly creating a climate in which fair and free elections can be properly held.

Because Catalans insist on a democratic solution to this conflict, they are willing to once again decide this matter through the ballot box. However, in order for those elections to be an honest arbiter, certain conditions must be met, and thus the undersigned hereby call on the UN, the European Council and the European Commission to:

  • Stop condoning Spain’s undemocratic behaviour, including its misuse of the courts, its takeover of Catalan government institutions, its police violence, and its turning of a blind eye toward the more than one hundred incidents of far-right violence that have appeared after every unionist march.
  • Guarantee Catalans’ civil and political rights as European citizens, including the freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of political expression, which are currently being violated with impunity by the Spanish State.
  • Demand that Spain release the ten political prisoners currently in Spanish jails, whose summary judgement hearings and subsequent preventative ‘custody’ in prison cells is a travesty of European democracy, and whose participation in the election cannot be fairly executed from jail.
  • Guarantee that no person or party will be prohibited from participating in the elections in Catalonia, and that Spain will not dictate which electoral programs are acceptable.
  • Provide accredited international observers to ensure that the imposed December 21st elections in Catalonia are carried out fairly and honestly.

The only peaceful solution to the conflict between Spain and Catalonia is a democratic one. It is time for the European and International communities to assert their influence in insisting that Catalan citizens be given the chance to express their opinion over the future of their country freely and democratically without fear of retribution in the courts, by police or by far-right extremists.

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