“The political prisoners are really criminals”

Neither Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, who have been in prison since 16 October 2017, nor the rest of the prisoners have been convicted of any crime. The “crimes” they are accused of are non-existent and/or political.

They are accused of sedition, which the official Spanish dictionary defines  as a “collective and violent uprising against authority, public order or military discipline, without reaching the gravity of a rebellion.” None of the prisoners used or proposed violence.

The (currently) 9 prisoners are in prison for their ideas and their political acts, not for any crime or anything that is not legitimate and democratic. If the PP and the courts say that what they have done is illegal, that says more about their laws and their lack of respect for democracy than about these prisoners.

The truth is that authoritarian governments and their not very independent judicial systems never recognise the existence of political prisoners. They always say they are mere criminals.

Lluís Companys, Catalan President during the civil war, was accused under the “laws” of the Francoite regime in 1940 and judged in a supposed court, with a defence lawyer and everything, for a series of “crimes” that could easily have included the “sedition” of which the current Catalan political prisoners are accused. No democratic person today can deny that his trial and execution — in fact assassination — were political.

The dictatorship introduced the “Decree-Law of 18 April 1947 concerning the repression of crimes of banditry and terrorism”: once again, political actions and opinions were being prosecuted as crimes.

Nelson Mandela was tried for political actions (which included, unlike the current prisoners, acts involving violence). But he was sentenced as a criminal and spent 27 years in the prisons of apartheid South Africa. At that time, Margaret Thatcher, then British Prime Minister, called Mandela a “terrorist”, but no democrat denied that he was a political prisoner.

All this — despite the many differences — applies to the Catalan political prisoners now.

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