Sinn Fein Senator Paul Gavan has raised the case of the Catalan political prisoners in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
Speaking in the Assembly in Strasbourg, Senator Gavan highlighted the second anniversary of the Catalan vote for Independence on the 1st October 2017.
“That referendum should have been a triumph for democracy, no matter what the result was.
“Sadly, the world witnessed shocking scenes of Spanish police brutality in various parts of Catalonia that day.
“Peaceful citizens who were protecting the integrity of polling stations were struck down and savagely beaten, with over 900 people being injured.”
Senator Gavan went on to raise the case of 12 Catalan political and civil leaders, who are currently imprisoned in Madrid awaiting judgement on politically motivated charges for their alleged role in facilitating this referendum.
“This is one of the most pressing political issues in Europe. We cannot ignore this important issue of citizens being prosecuted for pursuing purely peaceful and democratic means in determining their future.
“Some of them have been imprisoned for nearly two years on pre-trial detention.
“They include 2 civil society leaders, the former Catalan Vice-President, the former Speaker of the Catalan Parliament, and 8 former Ministers.
“The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) carried out a report into the detention of 3 of the prisoners and concluded that their detention is arbitrary and called for their immediate release.
“This UN report is a clear condemnation of Spain’s breach of fundamental human rights.
“The former Catalan President and other Ministers have been forced into exile.
“The Spanish State has tried to have them arrested and extradited but they keep losing these cases because the charges they are facing have no basis.”
“They are being prosecuted on ludicrous charges of rebellion and sedition.
“The former Speaker is facing 15 years in jail for allowing a debate on Catalan independence in Parliament.
“The Vice-President is facing up to 25 years for facilitating a democratic vote on self-determination. Their prosecution is politically motivated and they are political prisoners.
“Facilitating people to vote is not a crime, but preventing them by force should be.
“This is a political issue, not a legal one.
“The Spanish Government needs to enter into meaningful dialogue with the Catalan Government to find a political solution.
“It needs to stop using the police and the legal system to attack the Catalan independence movement, which is a legitimate political movement.
“It’s time to end the wall of silence on Catalonia. Justice and Human Rights for the Catalan People.”