Forcadell: "We refuse to bow to the censorship of those who seek to curtail parliamentary debate"

The Speaker of the Catalan Parliament declared that the Parliamentary Bureau refuses to do the Constitutional Court’s "dirty work" and says that she is ready to "pay the price" for defending the MPs’ "freedom of expression"

"With my head held high and with the peace of mind of knowing that the members of the Parliamentary Bureau acted correctly and in accordance with our duties". These were the words of the Speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell, in a public appearance following her statement before the High Court of Justice of Catalonia [TSJC in Catalan] on charges of disobedience. "We will accept neither censorship nor self-censorship," she declared, adding that if they have been indicted by the TSJC it is for having stood up for the MPs’ "freedom of expression".

The Speaker of the House was accompanied by the other members of the Bureau who also face charges, Anna Simó, Lluís Maria Corominas, Ramona Barrufet and Joan Josep Nuet. "We refuse to bow to the censorship of those who seek to curtail parliamentary debate", declared Forcadell, who added that "speaking is not a crime, debating is not a crime and voting is not a crime". She also stated that the Parliamentary Bureau will not act as a Constitutional Court [TC in Catalan], analysing the legal grounds of parliamentary acts, since its function is to protect the MPs’ "freedom of expression".

Forcadell went on to say that the Bureau refuses to do the court’s "dirty work", having criticized the fact that “Spain's authorities intend to tell Parliament what they can and cannot discuss", in an attempt to make the Bureau "do their dirty work, by becoming a miniature TC". She added that she is prepared to "pay the price" of protecting the MPs’ "freedom of expression" and parliamentary immunity.

According to Forcadell, the Bureau acted according to parliamentary rules and it was carrying out its duty to deal with motions as part of the general policy debate in which the referendum was discussed, among other matters. In the same vein, the Bureau’s First Secretary, Anna Simó, criticized the fact that the Bureau is being asked to consider which motions to debate based on their content. "This will not happen," she warned.

"Democratic abnormality"

After testifying before the TSJC, Forcadell and the other indicted members of the Bureau appeared in the Catalan parliament. On Monday, it was the turn of Forcadell and the First Secretary of the Bureau, Anna Simó, who argued before the judge that they had not disobeyed the Constitutional Court, but instead simply facilitated parliamentary debate.

Forcadell and Simó repeated the same arguments that they used before the judge, criticizing the court for calling them to testify when its duty ought to be one of safeguarding parliament’s "inviolability." They therefore insisted that, although this is not the first time that members of Parliament have had to testify in court for holding debates in the Catalan chamber, it is a "democratic anomaly".

Simó and Forcadell were indicted for allowing the vote on the referendum during a general policy debate, despite the TC having banned such a vote and having forbidden the Parliamentary Bureau from undertaking any act related to the independence process. The defendants, however, argue that they cannot prevent something from being discussed in the parliamentary chamber: Forcadell and Simó’s defence largely rests on the inviolability of deputies when it comes to expressing their opinions without the threat of criminal proceedings.

Friday it will be the turn of the Second Vice-President, Lluís Corominas, and the Fourth Secretary of the Bureau, Ramona Barrufet, to testify before the TSJC. On 12 June it will be the turn of Joan Josep Nuet, who is facing the same charges.

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