In another action reminiscent of its heavy-exercise of power in its times as a colonial empire, Spain yesterday jailed eight Catalonia leaders who dared answered a summons to appear before the High Court in Madrid, to face allegations of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds in connection with the democratic process that sought and briefly achieved Catalonia independence.
Spain's central government has taken over the autonomous Barcelona area of Catalonia to block the ambition of Catalans to independence from Spain. On October 1, this year, Catalonia held a referendum in which 90 percent of the 43 percent of voters participating in the democratic process, supported independence. Catalonia's parliament delayed any independence declaration hoping for fruitful negotiations with Madrid.
However, the Spanish Constitutional court ruled the referendum unconstitutional and the Madrid government has now invoked Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which has been interpreted to empower the Madrid government to fire Catalonia's government, thus suspending Catalonia's autonomy, which the said Constitution has referenced that such autonomy could never be taken away. On October 27, 2017, the Catalonia Parliament declared independence from Spain hours before Madrid stripped the autonomous region of its government.
In a stern sequence of events by the Madrid government hell-bent on doling-out punishment to those who appear to dare challenge the authority of Madrid, the central government's prosecutors has called for charges and prosecutions of Catalan leaders even though there was no armed insurrection nor any violent struggle mounted in Catalonia; just a democratic referendum by the people.
Of 14 Catalan ministers summoned to appear in court, nine appeared. Of the nine, eight were detained by High Court judge Carmen Lamela because of a supposed flight-risk and the destruction of evidence. One was granted bail because he quit the Catalan Parliament before the declaration of independence.
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, who is in Belgium and four other Catalan ministers did not answer the Madrid summons fearing guarantees as to their safety and a fair trial. Now Spanish prosecutors are seeking European warrants for the no-show Catalans. But any European Union(EU) member could deny an arrest warrant from another member if its fears the subject of the warrant could have his human rights violated, or be discriminated against based on politics, religion or race or fear of getting a fair trial.
While Catalans marched in Barcelona yesterday to protest the arrest of their leaders, Puigdemont called the detentions: "an act that breaks with the basic principles of democracy" and he called for the release of the detained ministers.
Puigdemont's sentiments are appropriate. Isn't it contrary to democratic principles to punish those who used non-violence and the democratic process of a referendum in lieu of armed insurrection, in order to facilitate change in their homeland?
Spain's arrest and detention of Catalan leaders go against the grain of the spirit of democracy. Spain has stirred up a mound of dissent within its borders that could transcend all boundaries to mutate into a changed attitude per democratic principles and practices.