EU Watch

Sentences for Catalan Leaders Disproportionate, Argue Italian Organisations

Antigone and the Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights (CILD) have expressed their concerns over the verdict of the Spanish Supreme Court, saying the sentences are way too harsh for non-violent crimes.

by Flaminia Delle Cese

Associations "disconcerted"

Patrizio Gonnella (President of Antigone) and Arturo Salerni (President of CILD) have released a statement saying “Antigone and the Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights are disconcerted by the verdict of the Spanish Supreme Court, which sentenced a number of Catalan politicians and representatives of civil society, who have been on trial for the facts related to the independence referendum, which took place 1 October 2017, to a total of over 100 years in prison.”

Both associations have joined International Trial Watch – an independent observatory established to monitor the trial – by participating in some of the hearings held at the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid.

There was no bloodshed, but the sentences did not reflect this

“During our observation” Gonnella and Salerni continued “we stressed some relevant elements that were likely to hinder a balanced judgement: the use of pre-trial detention despite the lack of risk of absconding or tampering with evidence, the trial being held in the Supreme Court in the first instance, preventing the defendants from appealing against the Court’s decision, the extreme right-wing party Vox having been admitted as a co-accuser alongside the Fiscalia General (i.e. the Public Prosecutor), and criminal law being used in some cases as political means to repress Catalonia’s demands for independence (on which one may or may not agree)”.

“Today’s sentence – Antigone and CILD highlight – seems to confirm precisely this political use of criminal law, with penalties that are disproportionate compared to the facts. Sentences that exceed ten years of imprisonment for almost all defendants seem to prove that violence and bloodshed took place, while in fact none of this happened. We believe that the Spanish judgement concerns the whole of Europe, because it sets up an important (and worrying) dividing line for the right to freedom of opinion. Finally, we are particularly concerned for the conviction of civil society representatives that were only responsible of organising demonstrations, during which no acts of violence took place”.