16 October marked the third anniversary of the imprisonment of Jordi Cuixart, the president of Òmnium Cultural, and Jordi Sànchez, currently the secretary general of Junts and the leader of the Catalan National Assembly at the time of his arrest. On occasion of this third anniversary, on Tuesday Amnesty International made a fresh appeal for the “immediate and unconditional” release of both pro-independence leaders.
In a statement, the international NGO emphasises that “Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart have been treated unjustly for over three years and they remain in prison today, even though they should have never been convicted”. This time AI calls on the three powers of the state: the executive branch, parliament and the judiciary. On the latter, AI believes that the Prosecutor of the Constitutional Court should request that their convictions be overturned, following the appeal that both Catalan leaders have filed against the Supreme Court ruling in the case of the 2017 failed independence bid. AI states that in its 2019 report it pointed out that both leaders had had “their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly” violated due to the “vague” wording of the crime of sedition in Spain’s criminal code.
AI also called on the Spanish government to issue an official pardon for both Catalan leaders, even though “it isn’t the ideal solution”. The human rights NGO remarks that Sànchez and Cuixart “should have never been convicted” and [an official pardon] “would merely lift the penalty, without clearing the offence itself”. Still, it would provide a way out for both Catalan grassroots leaders and it would put an end to the “injustice”.
Finally, AI called on the Spanish parliament to amend the crime of sedition “as soon as possible” because its current wording “might pave the way for future convictions” of individuals who exercise their right to peaceful assembly and freedom of speech. Spain’s AI country leader, Esteban Beltrán, explained that this amendment —which the Spanish government had vowed to undertake— should guarantee that “no disproportionate penalties are imposed on acts of peaceful civil disobedience, like we had in the case of Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart”.
Although AI believes that Sànchez and Cuixart should be released immediately and unconditionally, it also demands that their level 3 status be reinstated [which would allow them to pursue daytime employment outside their prison, among other benefits]. Both Sànchez and Cuixart saw their level 3 classification revoked at the end of July. Bertran added that they hope “the Supreme Court will rule to return the status granted by Catalonia’s prison service to them as soon as possible”.
Sànchez and Cuixart make a request
The two jailed Catalan leaders have commented on AI’s position in their case and have urged the Spanish government to take action. In a post on Twitter Sànchez warned PM Pedro Sánchez that “it’s unacceptable to applaud” AI when it takes a stand on Kuwait, Turkey and Colombia, but “look the other way” when AI points fingers at Spain. Cuixart stated that “the contrast between the demands of AI and the actions of the Spanish state is a democratic embarrassment”. The Òmnium Cultural leader thanked Amnesty International for taking a stand and stated that “receiving the support of the most important human rights group in the world is a privilege for any political prisoner”. This is at least the fourth time that AI demands that both leaders be released. As it did on earlier occasions, AI didn’t refer to the situation of the other Catalan political prisoners this time either.