EDITORIAL

Yes, they are political prisoners. And no, they didn’t stage a coup

The Prosecutor’s Office’s shocking closing statement in the trial of the Catalan independence leaders was absurd, both legally and politically speaking

In light of the harsh words used in the closing statements made by the Prosecutor's Office at the end of the trial, one thing must be made clear: the defendants are political prisoners who are being tried for their ideas. There is zero evidence that they staged a coup or committed acts of violence. The facts speak for themselves and they do not support the charges. Not at all. Technically speaking, there is no evidence to support the prosecution’s claims that the defendants committed rebellion. In their closing statements, in which they refused to accept that the defendants were being persecuted for their political beliefs, their words were tainted by a thinly disguised ideological tone, in an absurd spiral.

A coup d’état? Well no, actually. Spain has only witnessed two coups in the last one hundred years, both at the hands of Spanish ultranationalist members of the armed forces: General Francisco Franco Bahamonde and Guardia Civil Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Tejero Molina. Incidentally, Franco’s tomb still occupies pride of place, to the eternal shame of all democrats, in the Valley of the Fallen mausoleum. Just yesterday, the same Supreme Court where the Catalan pro-independence leaders are standing trial, decided to impose a temporary injunction on the exhumation of a dictator whom they consider to have been the "head of state from 1 October 1936". Another no: the head of state at the time was Manuel Azaña, the president of a Republic which Franco's coup put an end to with an armed uprising which resulted in a long, bloody war, followed by a vengeful, repressive post-war period in which the defenders of the republic were found guilty of "aiding the rebellion". Yes, you read it right: rebellion.

The fact that the same court accused a group of peaceful, pro-independence democrats who represent millions of voters of having staged a coup, on the same day it called a halt to the exhumation of the instigator of a truly violent coup whose ideological obsessions included the desire to crush Catalan separatism (which was actually a form of republican autonomy), verges on the obscene. At the very least it perfectly illustrates certain historical consistencies in 21st century Spain.

Returning to the trial of the Catalan leaders, however, the attempt to characterize the events which took place before and after the referendum on 1 October 2017 as a violent rebellion, as Vox’s lawyer tried to do (the State Prosecutor called it sedition), is an attempt to twist the truth which borders on the ridiculous: the Prosecutor's Office argued that, "The violent nature of the uprising does not mean that serious or armed violence is necessary". Is it really possible to carry out a coup d'état with the virtual absence of violence and without the use of weapons? What on earth is this all about? Anyone with any common sense can see that the defendants weren’t part of a "criminal organization". It also turns out that, according to the prosecution, the politicians and grassroots activists standing trial are to blame for the fact that the forces of law and order used violence against the voters who were "behaving like human shields": in other words, an attempt to twist the truth —with the victims of the violence being blamed for it having taken place— which can only be seen as the result of a veritable ideological obstinacy.

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