Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Friday, 28 december 2018

Catalan political crisis 'should speak to all democrats'

JOAQUIM Forn was Catalonia’s interior minister until he was arrested for his role in the October 2017 independence referendum. He has been in jail since.


THE NATIONAL

18th December 2018



Exclusive by GREG RUSSELL



Forn has also been on hunger strike for two weeks, one of four prisoners taking this drastic course of action. Here, he talks about his incarceration, the forthcoming trials and Europe.

What is your view of events such as the continuing refusal of European leaders to take up your cases; and the way Spain is lurching further to the right almost every day?

I am worried that Europe turns its back on the situation we are in. What is happening is a clear violation of civil rights and liberties. In Spain, an involution is happening as a consequence of a weak left that is being dragged by the discourse of the PP (People’s Party) and Ciudadanos (Citizens) and also due to the rise of the extreme right with Vox.

Europe should not be unconnected to this regression and should position itself in defence of our liberties.

The political prisoners have a huge amount of support with daily protests outside Lledoners – does that support give you more strength?

Absolutely. Some of us have been for more than a year in pretrial and preventative detention. First in prison in Madrid and now in Catalunya.

These last few months have been very tough and we have been able to overcome them thanks to the support from our families and the societal mobilisation that there is in Catalunya.

From the prison courtyard we can hear the chants and shouts of support. Without this great support, the situation would have been more difficult to bear.

You have been on hunger strike now for two weeks, are you not worried that this protest can damage you?

We have not imposed a time limit upon ourselves. Our hunger strike aims to denounce the inaction of the Constitutional Court (TC), which has not reviewed our appeals. Some of these were submitted a year ago. The court, who should be the guarantor of our rights, is acting subordinate to political interests and is denying us access to European justice.

What we are enduring in Spain should not only worry independence supporters. Any democrat should react to this arbitrariness. We are clearly worried about the possible consequences to our health. The medical services from jail check us daily. We cannot forget that our trial is starting next month and that we should confront it in the best possible condition, both physical and mentally.

The TC judges have said they will hear you appeals next month (and will hear some cases before then) – do you believe that they will stick to that timetable?

From the moment we started the hunger strike, the TC made some moves. This week, it has started to resolve five of almost 30 appeals that all the defendants have presented.

Next week it will continue to resolve other appeals. It is clear that the TC knows it has not acted according to the law and should face our complaint.

How do you view the world’s response to what is happening in Catalonia?

I would like there to be a bigger awareness of what is happening in Spain. The governments of both PP and PSOE (Spanish Socialist Party) have dismissed dialogue, which is the political way, and have ended up imposing criminal law solutions against the political demands of millions of Catalans.

The fact that in Europe, in the 21st century, we are talking about exiled and imprisoned politicians should worry the European states and citizens. The crisis being lived in Catalunya should speak to all democrats. The debate about liberties is very alive in Europe and the world, so we cannot turn our backs as if this debate does not concern us.

How worrying is the prospect of not receiving a fair trial?

Without a doubt, we are very worried. In any case, I see the trial as an opportunity. We are not in the pretrial proceedings any more, so now the accusations need to be argued with proof.

The prosecution wanted to create the narrative of rebellion and sedition, based on the police reports from the Civil Guard and the National Police. The German courts have compellingly ruled out these crimes. The trial will be broadcast live, with the presence of international observers.

I have not lost faith and I truly think that with the criminal code in hand, the only possible sentence is absolution.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

I would like to thank the Scottish people for showing their solidarity and support. We have received hundreds of letters and postcards. We cannot answer them all which is why I want to take this opportunity to thank them for their gesture.




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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Col·lectiu Emma is a network of Catalans and non-Catalans living in different countries who have made it their job to track and review news reports about Catalonia in the international media. Our goal is to ensure that the world's public opinion gets a fair picture of the country's reality today and in history.

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