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Antoni Bassas’ analysis: Spain is putting democracy on trial

"Yesterday, in the demonstration [in support of Carme Forcadell] in Barcelona’s Plaça de Sant Jaume, mayor Ada Colau said that if they put Forcadell on trial they would be putting a whole nation on trial. I would go even further: they would be putting democracy on trial."

The Speaker of the Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell, appeared today before a judge as a result of the complaint brought by the public prosecutor for the alleged crime of disobedience and willful neglect of duty for allowing the Parliament’s plenary assembly to vote on the conclusions of the constituent process study commission.

Forcadell could be facing a possible ban from holding public office if the court does bring full proceedings against her, as it has already decided to do with three people, including ex-Catalan president Artur Mas, following the unofficial 2014 independence referendum.

Forcadell walked to the courthouse from the Catalan Parliament accompanied by president Carles Puigdemont, vice-president Oriol Junqueras, ex-president Mas, Forcadell’s predecessors Joan Rigol and Ernest Benach and a number of members of Parliament. At the door, a crowd was waiting for them.

It was a pro-independence crowd, but what took place this morning goes beyond that objective. What the court has done is take yet another step towards the criminalisation of ideas in a democracy. Today is, purely and simply, an embarrassment.

Let’s see: what would Forcadell’s supposed crime be? To have ordered a plenary assembly vote on the findings of a commission. It’s irrelevant that these resolutions didn’t have any administrative consequences. The court has to determine if that could constitute an act of disobedience as the parliament had been warned by the Constitutional Court to stop any initiative of disconnection from Spain. But what was Forcadell doing? She was acting in accordance with a parliamentary majority; in other words, in accordance with the results of a democratic election. What else could a Speaker of the House do?

I’ll skip over the fact that the Constitutional Court has allowed the PP government to turn it into a rubber-stamp court. I’m even prepared to ignore the fact that the vote was to do with independence. If we can’t move forward with a political project that has passed through the ballot boxes and doesn’t aim to end democracy, it’s because this is a political trial. And there is no place for political trials in a democracy. You can’t hold a trial to strike down an idea that has won at the ballot box and, I insist, it’s an idea that does not seek to take down democracy. As such, today, the leader of a democratic parliament is on trial for having acted in accordance with the results of a democratic vote. And that, my friend, as Bob Dylan would say, is very serious, because it means that, in Spain, democratic and peaceful political ideas are persecuted. Today any independence supporter could go to show solidarity with Forcadell, but also any democrat from anywhere in the world could have turned up to support her.

Yesterday, in the demonstration [in support of Forcadell] in Barcelona’s Plaça de Sant Jaume, mayor Ada Colau said that if they put Forcadell on trial they would be putting a whole nation on trial. I would go even further: they would be putting democracy on trial.

And it is serious, but even more so when put in context. The headline of our print front page today? “Supreme Court drops ‘Fernandezgate’”, the court closes the case on the minister of the Interior’s conspiratorial conversations because they see no evidence of a crime[1]. On this, our editorial today couldn’t be clearer: “Spain, that country where conspiring against political adversaries isn't a crime”. In other words, the case against a minister who used public funds to look for evidence to destroy political adversaries (a minister who neither was fired nor resigned) is dropped, but the Speaker of a parliament has to appear in court for organising a vote according to the rules and the popular vote.
They started with... what was it? “We’ve destroyed their healthcare system”. Now they’re destroying our democracy. We can’t allow them to treat us like criminals for our political ideas, even less when they are scrupulously democratic and have met with success at the ballot box. Nor should any democrat have to accept it, whatever their beliefs.

Translator’s Notes:

1. Tapes leaked before the 2016 Spanish general election allegedly show Jorge Fernández Díaz, former Spanish Interior minister, plotting with the director of the Catalan Anti-Fraud Office to fabricate corruption scandals around certain pro-independence leaders.

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