A number of MEPs will ask Madrid to be allowed to act as international observers in the upcoming trial against the Catalan leaders indicted over the 2017 independence bid. Their request will be channelled through the EU-Catalonia Dialogue Platform, a group whose aim is to persuade Europe to intervene in the conflict between Catalonia and Spain. French MEP José Bové made the announcement on Monday outside the Lledoners prison in Catalonia where he had just visited the Catalan leaders held in pre-trial detention. Bové remarked that the trial “offers no guarantees” and added that the conditions which the defendants will face pose “a genuine democratic problem”. The MEP also urged that the Catalan leaders be released “immediately” so they may prepare their defence properly.
Bové travelled to Lledoners with other eight MEPs from Wales, Ireland and Sweden. They were joined by Catalan MEPs and together they visited the seven Catalan politicians who are held in the facility located near Sant Joan de Vilatorrada (Catalonia). The MEPs admitted that being international observers will be a tall order, given the expected length of the trial, and mentioned that they might invite European representatives of human rights groups. Bové stressed that the conditions which the defendants will face during the trial are “unacceptable”: “They will be held in a Madrid prison over an hour’s drive from the Supreme Court, they will rise at 5 am every day to be driven to the capital, handcuffed in a police van; and then they will be expected to argue their case”, he complained.
On Monday the MEPs visited the three facilities where the Catalan leaders are currently held (Lledoners, Puig de les Basses and Mas d’Enric) and they had a two-hour meeting in Sant Joan de Vilatorrada. Bové stated that he had found the Catalan leaders “in good spirits, their convictions more unshakeable than before their incarceration”. “What we are seeing here is a shocking situation; I speak as a European when I say that this is a violation of basic rights. We’re at the heart of the EU, but what is going on in Spain is a lot more like what you’d get in a totalitarian regime like Turkey’s”, he complained.
Swedish MEP Bodil Valero stated that the only reason why Europe has not taken a stand yet on the conflict between Spain and Catalonia is “cowardice”. “The problem is that Europe always claims that there is nothing the EU can do because it is an internal affair [of a member state]. It will do nothing until there is a request from Spain”, she noted. Valero spoke about her surprise at the lengthy prison sentences which the Public Prosecutor will be aiming for and she said that in Sweden the longest penalty for a crime equivalent to rebellion would be a two and a half year prison sentence. “It is important to emphasise that it is Spain that is different, not the other way round”.
Catalan MEP Josep Maria Terricabras, who looked clearly shaken after visiting the prisoners in Lledoners, spoke about the “lack of humanity and intelligence” exhibited by Arrimadas and Albiol [the Ciudadanos and PP leaders in Catalonia] when they claimed that the Catalan pro-independence leaders had been granted privileges over other inmates in the Catalan prisons where they are being held. Terricabras said that “it is shameful and offensive that these people should make such claims while we have to defend ourselves. We are dealing with fools, here”. Terricabras also spoke about his disappointment at the PSOE and added that, as shown by the Public Prosecutor’s statements, the current socialist administration is “even worse than the PP’s”.