It is curious that five days after a German court ruled that the violence attributed to Carles Puigdemont was not sufficient to extradite him for the crime of rebellion, the Guardia Civil arrested a member of Catalonia’s Committees for Defense of the Republic (CDR) under the accusation of —wait for it— terrorism and rebellion. Spain’s justice seems to be rushing unstoppably towards its own discredit, with excesses unbecoming of a European democracy. And all with one objective: to criminalize the Catalan independence movement, which since the beginning of the process in 2012 has been characterized by the strictest civility and pacifism. Even when this criminalization brings with it a trivialization of terrorism.
Since October 1st the CDR have led protests against the imprisonment of separatist leaders and, in general, against the judicial persecution suffered by hundreds of people for this same reason. And in this context there have been highways cut off, occupation of roadways, and actions like the raising of barriers at some toll booths on the AP-7 during the return from Easter Week. Any observer, and that is not to say any jurist, can clearly see that to accuse the organizers of these demonstrations of terrorism and rebellion (which carry sentences of up to 30 years) is totally outrageous. The scandal has been so great that the journalists covering the European Commission grilled its spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, with questions, to which he replied with a laconic "The last time that we checked, Spain was a democracy". Yesterday the Catalan police arrested six people for incidents on January 30th at the Parc de la Ciutadella, the day planned for the inauguration of Carles Puigdemont. They have been accused of public disorder —nothing to do with terrorism or rebellion.
However, Catalonia’s independence movement should make no mistake: there is a plan behind these actions by the Spanish State. It is the strategy of the self-fulfilling prophecy: it is trying to elicit a violent outburst that would justify, after the fact, the false story that the independence bid is violent, a narrative that is very present in the writings of Justice Pablo Llarena and in reports from the Guardia Civil. It was not by chance that Ciudadanos and the PP spoke yesterday of "commandos" and "kale borroka” (Basque urban guerrillas): it was an attempt to connect Catalan protests with ETA violence. From this perspective, yesterday's arrest is a provocation, an effort to draw the CDR out of their peaceful, non-violent resistance and push them to take direct action.
The movement must not fall into this trap. It must stay firm, through conviction and its own interest, in pacifism and civility —especially now that it is winning the battle for the international public opinion with Puigdemont's release. For the first time since Madrid imposed direct rule on Catalonia, the Spanish government is on the defensive. Pablo Llarena knows that he needs something more substantial to support his unbelievable narrative of violence in the face of the forthcoming European legal battle. And he is desperately seeking it in the CDR. We can't afford to make it easy for him.