Political prisoners – Catalonia

Four years to the day since the Scottish independence referendum was held I am in Barcelona. As if to match my mood the skies are dark and broody. Thunder is rolling in and the lightening illuminates the city skyline. It’s a dark day in Barcelona and a dark time for democracy in Spain. I am driving the ninety minutes or so out of Barcelona to Lledoners prison to visit Jordi Cuixart, Jordi Sànchez and Raul Romeva. The last mile of the journey is easy. All I have to do is follow the yellow ribbons that have been adopted as a sign of solidarity and that now line the side of the roads leading to the prison. Jordi Cuixart and Sànchez have been in prison for eleven months having been arrested and charged with sedition for their part in the Catalonian independence referendum campaign last year. Raül was arrested in November and released in December and then rearrested last March. The date of their trial, along with the other political prisoners, is planned for November but the rumour is that they shall be postponed until Spring 2019.

Today, I want to talk about Jordi Cuixart. Jordi is the president of Òmnium which is a cultural movement in Catalonia. He is not a politician. He is an incredibly brave, optimistic, intelligent and humble man. I asked him how he managed to stay so positive and he explained that he lived in the moment and tried to make each moment happy. He engaged with prison life and other prisoners. He refuses to be beaten by the system he opposes. He is quick to explain that in time people will decide the political and constitutional future of Catalonia and he sees his internment as a small part of that. But he is equally quick to point out that he and his fellow political prisoners are innocent of all charges and have been wrongly imprisoned. His wish is that their plight is spoken about on a wider international arena and not allowed to be internalised by the Spanish authorities. He wants the world to judge Spain during his trial not him, he is already innocent. Jordi talks about his wife and child with enormous excitement and affection. He outlines the difficulty in creating the connections that he wants to build with his growing son. It’s the only time in the one hour I spent with him when I sense any pain. Jordi Cuixart has been in prison for eleven months and can be held for four years without trial. If he is found guilty he could face fifteen years in prison. Jordi Cuixart’s son will be sixteen when his father gets out. I would challenge anybody to listen to the stories of these political prisoners and consider the charges brought against them. Is peacefully challenging the establishment a crime? They did not use violence and they did not incite it. They helped to facilitate and ensure a peaceful democratic protest. The Spanish authorities may not have liked the message they were hearing but no people or property were threatened or damaged in anyway. I would hope that somewhere within the Spanish judicial system there is a person with sufficient power who can acknowledge that a Spanish democracy fit for the twenty first century does not need to take such action against Jordi or the eight other political prisoners. The prisoners should be released and families should be reunited.