Irene Rigau and Joana Ortega appeared in court today charged with the crime of disobedience. Disobedience to whom? To the Spanish Constitutional Court, which had issued a ruling against the consultation of 9-N (November 9, 2014). It might appear that we are seeing the actions of one of the powers of the State, the judiciary, which is rightfully pursuing crime and, in doing so, allowing Mas, Rigau, and Ortega to be found guilty or innocent. It would be so, if we were talking about a run-of-the-mill trial, and Justice was acting with absolute independence, as it is meant to do. But this is not the case.
This is not so, as it is vital to remember that the Prosecutor was swayed, by order of the Spanish government, to file a complaint against President Mas. Two days after 9-N, on November 11, 2014, the president of the PP in Catalonia, who has nothing to do with the Prosecutor’s Office, went on Spain’s Telecinco TV and announced that the complaint would be submitted in a matter of minutes. Do you recall?
Alícia Sánchez-Camacho (the Catalan PP leader): "They crossed a red line, which was to ignore the decision of the Constitutional Court which prohibited the government from staging this antidemocratic charade. For that reason, the complaint that will be filed today, this very morning, has a very solid legal foundation. We might be talking about three different offenses".
That was November 11th. It was not until the 21st, ten days after this television appearance, that Spain’s Attorney General filed the complaint. And the chief prosecutor in Catalonia had to press charges by order of the Spanish Attorney General, because the chief prosecutor in Catalonia and the eight prosecutors who comprise the board in Catalonia did not want to charge the President of the Generalitat.
Remember that those were days of great shock in Madrid. Rajoy had promised that the consultation would not be held. And when 9-N arrived, the strength of 2.3 million people going to vote was so unstoppable that the Spanish authorities understood that it could not allow an image that would have condemned it before the world, that of Spanish police carrying away ballot boxes. After a few days of dithering, they ended up deciding that they had had enough of people making a mockery of the rule of law, and the government strong-armed the Prosecutor’s Office --the prosecutor is appointed by the Spanish government and reports to it--, and the prosecutor in turn strong-armed his Catalan colleagues, and the legal machinery began to hum. Leading all the way up to today.
There is a second reason why we assert that this is a political trial. The Spanish government knows that, technically, Mas, Rigau, and Ortega could easily be found non-guilty, because they did not receive any urgent requirement to desist from organizing the consultation. As the Spanish government knows that Mas has a strong chance of being acquitted, they have resorted to another tactic: to reform the Constitutional Court (CC) affording it punitive powers. That is, as they saw that Mas could walk away, and as they don’t trust in the independent action of the judiciary, they are reforming the CC, without any consensus, and giving it a level of power unprecedented in a Constitutional Court. So unusual that, if the president of the CC wanted to, now he could remove the president of the Spanish government. He could do so. That is why we say that this is a political trial.
The Spanish government hopes to conceal, under the guise of justice, what is nothing more than a political response to the monumental win of giving a voice to the people at the ballots. But to see Rigau and Ortega today climbing the steps of the Hall of Justice is the same as if they had forcibly removed the ballot boxes on 9-N. It is equally demeaning. It’s childish: it is to deny that there is a problem by covering one’s eyes. It is against the signs of the times: society has been empowered. Those who fail to understand this won’t be able to govern. Those who hide behind judges and the police will be overcome by the tides of history. The same history that gave Mas the necessary confidence when he stated, in the library of the school where he went to vote on November 9: "If the Prosecutor wants to know who is responsible for opening the schools, he should look at me. I am responsible, along with my government".