"It’s outrageous that there are political prisoners in Spain"

Alfred de Zayas, UN independent expert on the promotion of democracy, critical of the EU’s silence

This Thursday the European Parliament held a debate on the pro-independence referendum and the current political situation in Catalonia, four months after the 1 October referendum. The UN independent expert on democracy and human rights, Alfred de Zayas, one of the main speakers at the event, spoke out in support of the Catalans’ right to decide their future and decried the existence of "political prisoners" in Spain, in reference to the Catalan ministers who are in prison and the two Jordis.

"I am concerned that there are political prisoners in Spain. It’s an outrage that there are political prisoners in Europe and that the European Commission remains silent", declared De Zayas, a UN consultant and professor of International law. According to De Zayas, in the political conflict between Catalonia and Spain "it is clear that one side does not wish to talk", he said in reference to Mariano Rajoy’s government.

Alfred de Zayas, a Cuban-born American, spoke out against the European Commission’s inaction and criticized the fact that, while Brussels issues statements concerning internal matters in Hungary and Poland, it remains silent as to the goings on in Catalonia. "The situation in Spain is much more serious, yet there is nothing but a deafening silence", De Zayas stated.

The Court of Justice of the EU

According to the UN expert in democracy, the behaviour of the security forces on 1 October could not only be brought before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, but also the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg, since they violated the fundamental rights of citizens enshrined in the EU’s treaties. "The Spanish courts may request that certain matters be raised in Luxembourg", he said.

During the debate, hosted by ERC MEPs Jordi Solé and Josep-Maria Terricabras, the documentary '1-O' was shown. The film’s director, Lluís Arcarazo, was also present at the debate. "Politicians don’t feature because the documentary is a tribute to anonymous individuals, a sense of citizenship and democratic values", Arcarazo declared.

Victims of police violence

The event was also attended by victims of police violence on 1 October, who were there to recount their personal experiences. These included Roger Español, the young man who lost an eye due to the impact of a rubber bullet fired by the Spanish police. He declared "I hope that Europe, the powers that be, open their eyes and realise once and for all what happened on 1-O".

The PDECat MEP Ramon Tremosa did not attend the debate, though the Catalan minister dismissed following the introduction of Article 155, Clara Ponsatí (JxCat), was present. Ponsatí declined to make a statement to the media. It was the first time the minister has entered the European Parliament. She did so unhindered, despite the Spanish PP’s reluctance to authorize Carles Puigdemont —and his ministers— access to the European Parliament.

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