EDITORIAL

The defendants’ democratic convictions

The defendants’ closing statements: a call for political dialogue and fundamental rights

The judges are about to begin their deliberations following a day loaded with emotion. The trial ended with the closing statements given by the twelve defendants, nine of which controversially have been held on remand for many months. The political nature of this highly unusual, critically important trial —one which is loaded with historic significance— became apparent once again in the final phase. This was especially true during the Prosecutor’s Office’s closing statements of what is, without a doubt, the most important trial to be held during the democratic period since the recovery of freedom in 1978. A trial full of ideological prejudices, a trial no one would ever have predicted. The case should never have gone as far as the Supreme Court. In fact, this incredible legal process is clear proof of the collective failure of the politics and, moreover, it is proof of the fragility of Spanish democracy. The verdict will decide the direction of the rule of law in Spain: it will put the quality of its system of rights and freedoms to the test. It will establish whether the right to protest, the freedom of expression and the right of assembly can be exercised freely or whether, on the contrary, they can be persecuted and punished. It will establish whether all views can be defended and expressed or if in practice some are persecuted, found guilty and locked behind bars. This is what is standing trial at the Supreme Court and what is currently at stake in Spain. And it's no joke.

With the threat of long jail sentences of up to 25 years hanging over them, yesterday the defendants spoke calmly, firmly and with great emotion of their peaceful, democratic beliefs. They acted as they truly are —and it is because of what they are that they are on trial—, as politicians and civic activists. They behaved, therefore, as representatives of the will of the majority of Catalans to decide their political future at the ballot box, and reiterated that such actions can never be considered a crime. Addressing the people of Spain as a whole, they rejected claims that they hate anyone, the people of Spain in particular. They stressed the need to return to dialogue and political negotiations, without fear or psychological barriers, to solve a problem which should never have gone to court in the first place. They obviously rejected the absurd, twisted accusations of violence during the referendum on 1 October 2017. And they expressed their immense gratitude for the countless expressions of support which they have received throughout this difficult period in which they have been deprived of their freedom. In a show of optimism and dignity, the defendants proved that they have not given up hope. They wished to share with the public their optimism and firm belief that one day a solution will be found which allows the right to self-determination to be exercised with normality. Specifically, they trust that the trial’s outcome will not worsen the situation in Catalonia and Spain, but instead that it will help to bring that solution. Finally, they spoke of a belief in the existence of a path to reconciliation. The President of Òmnium, Jordi Cuixart, also issued a warning, subsequently echoed by the President of the Catalan government, Quim Torra: they will continue to disobey "peacefully, calmly, with all the determination in the world".

The Supreme Court’s ruling will have enormous implications for Spain’s political and democratic future in the coming years. Hopefully the judges appreciate the significance of their decision and are capable of acting courageously. With the same courage and dignity shown by the defendants.

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