Catalonia crisis: The justice system takes action

A judge has sent the heads of two pro-independence associations to prison. Is it time now for police chiefs and their political masters to stand down?

On Monday, a judge from Spain’s High Court sent the leaders of two pro-Catalan independence organizations to prison without bail as part of an ongoing probe into accusations of sedition.

Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart – the leaders of the civic groups National Catalan Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium, respectively – spent their first night in jail last night, on accusations that they organized major protests and caused public disorder when, on September 20 and 21, they allegedly encouraged crowds to try to impede Civil Guard officers from carrying out a judicial order to search the Catalan regional government’s economy department, to look for material and documents destined for the illegal independence referendum that was planned – and eventually went ahead – on October 1.

The protestors on the streets on those dates impeded the authorities from being able to exit the economy department, as well as causing damage to three Civil Guard all-terrain vehicles, at an estimated cost of €135,600.

The severity of the judge’s decision on Monday has already prompted a response from the two men’s organizations. But at the same time it is a reminder that a serious violation of the law does not come without a price in a democratic state. The head of the Mossos d’Esquadra Catalan regional police force, Josep Lluís Trapero, who is also being investigated for sedition based on the same events, escaped jail yesterday, but was instructed by the judge to hand over his passport and to report to a court every two weeks, as well as being prohibited from traveling outside of Spain. The same precautionary measures were imposed on Mossos superintendent Teresa Laplana.

These measures were considerably less harsh than the prison without bail that the public prosecutor was calling for. But they still cause considerable damage to the personal image of the Mossos chiefs, and are a stain on their reputations and on that of the entire force.

It is not every day in Europe that we see police chiefs accused of sedition, of rising up against the application of laws or court orders in a context of disorder. The legal concept is there to punish serious actions against public order: just the type of concept that the police and other authorities should defend.

These suspects continue to enjoy the presumption of innocence. But they are now accompanied by growing evidence of responsibility. It corresponds to their free will if their continuance in their jobs undermines the proper working of the force that they are in charge of. This is something that, even before they do, their political leaders should consider: i.e. the regional interior chief, Joaquim Forn, and the director of the Mossos, Pere Soler, both of whom are prominent and noisy champions of anti-democratic subversion. It is hoped that the investigation analyze their actions, instructions and silences, such as countering the possible perception that the executors are paying the price for the chaos more than those on the front line who conjured it up, and are the ultimate instigators of this blow to legality.

From our point of view, some of these figures – the police chiefs under investigation and their political bosses – should quit their roles in order to start reestablishing democratic normalcy in Catalonia.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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