Catalan ‘political prisoners’ claims untrue, says Amnesty

Banners in Nov. 11 march in Barcelona demanding 'Freedom political prisoners'. Photo: Massimiliano Minocri / El País
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• Neither jailed activists nor former Catalan ministers are ‘political prisoners’
• Secessionists, supporters continue making claim, despite Amnesty clarification

Despite claims that continue to be made by supporters of Catalonia’s pro-independence movement, Amnesty International Spain has stated categorically that leaders of the movement currently being held in preventive custody on orders of a Spanish criminal court judge are not “political prisoners” nor does the human rights organisation consider them to be “prisoners of conscience” unjustly jailed by the Spanish government because of their ideas.

Multiple Spanish media outlets last week reported comments made by a spokesperson for Amnesty International Spain, the Spanish section of the international human rights campaigning organisation, that directly contradict the “politica prisoners” characterization being widely made by supporters of Catalan secession from Spain regarding two leaders of the Catalan pro-independence groups Asamblea Nacionalista Catalan and Omnium Cultural, plus several former cabinet-level ministers of the regional Catalan government.

Both the activists and former regional government ministers were remanded into preventive custory afer they refused to answer prosecutors’ questions in separate court appearances before a judge of the Audiencia Nacional criminal court. The judge cited the probability that all could repeat their alleged violations of Spanish laws and court orders barring their activism for independence, illegal under the terms of Spain’s 1978 Constitution. The judge has also cited the likelihood that both the ANC and Omnium leaders, as well as the former government officials could skip bail and flee Spain — as have done former Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont and other cabinet ministers — in an effort to forestall their being brought to trial.

According to the Amnesty spokesperson, because the two Catalan independence activists and former government ministers are in preventive custody over charges of specific violations of Spanish law they cannot be considered to have been jailed “because of their ideas,” as per claims by pro-independence supporters and others, including Barcelona mayor Ada Colau and Pablo Iglesias, general-secretary of Spain’s three-year-old anti-austerity party Podemos (We Can).

Despite Amnesty’s clarification that the jailed individuals do not fit the human-rights organisation’s “prisoners of conscience” definition, hundreds of thousands of pro-indepenence protesters gathered Saturday in Barcelona under banners and placards reading “Freedom for political prisoners” in both Catalan and English to continue to tell the world that the Catalan independence activists have been jailed solely for their political ideas.

► Read More in Spanish at La Vanguardia, El País and La Sexta Noticias …

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