As a political prisoner in Spain, I appreciate Pep Guardiola’s support | Jordi Cuixart

The Manchester City boss is in trouble for wearing a yellow ribbon in solidarity with jailed Catalan politicians

As of today, I have now been in prison for 144 days without a trial for defending the rights and freedoms of the people of Catalonia. Since then, my 10-month-old son and my partner have travelled 27,000km, making the 1,200km round trip from Barcelona to Soto del Real prison, close to Madrid, more than 20 times. Despite this, I still believe in justice, the protection of human rights, peace and freedom as the fundamental values that define 21st-century democracy.

Therefore, I truly appreciate Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola’s act of solidarity by wearing a yellow ribbon in support of the four Catalan prisoners, despite being charged by the FA for refusing to take it off. “It’s not about politicians, it’s about democracy. Before I am a manager, I am a human being,” Guardiola said. Not just every political prisoner, but every human being around the world should appreciate his moral leadership. He makes us better as a society.

Recent statements by Martin Glenn, the chief executive of the FA, are wrongheaded. A yellow ribbon does not represent any political affiliation and is not a symbol of Catalan independence. It is simply a sign of solidarity with people who have been unfairly jailed, like the families of the US hostages held in the 1979 Tehran embassy crisis who prayed for their freedom.

To compare the yellow ribbon to symbols such as the swastika shows a clear lack of information about the situation in Spain. The Franco dictatorship banned Òmnium, the organisation of which I am president, from 1963 to 1967. Barcelona’s mayor, Ada Colau, said: “The situation that the prisoners and their families are going through is immoral and unacceptable in democratic terms. This is about human rights and freedoms, the violation of the fundamental rights of a group that could be any other group tomorrow.”

Pictures of the imprisoned Catalan politicians, during a protest in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. Former regional Vice President Oriol Junqueras, and activists Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart face possible sedition charges. Junqueras is also investigated for alleged rebellion and embezzlement, punishable with decades in prison. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Pictures of the imprisoned Catalan politicians, during a protest in Barcelona. Photograph: Manu Fernandez/AP

Amnesty International has repeatedly stated that the charges of rebellion and sedition against us are excessive, and 109 Spanish jurists have said that they have no legal basis. All our requests for release have been denied by the Spanish judicial system. “There was no rebellion in Catalonia because there was no violence,” said Carmen Tomás Valiente, a professor of criminal law and the daughter of former constitutional court president Francisco Tomás Valiente, who was killed by Eta.

We have therefore lodged our case with the UN working group on arbitrary detention, claiming that our imprisonment by the Spanish government is unlawful, and that our detention violates our right to freedom of association and freedom of expression, the right to political opinion and participation in public life, and the right to a fair trial.

As human rights lawyer Ben Emmerson said: “This case does not ask the UN to adjudicate on the issue of Catalan independence, but seeks the UN’s reaffirmation that governments cannot repress political dissent through arbitrary detention. The actions of the Spanish government in this case set a dangerous precedent for the right to peaceful protest around the world.” How is it possible that the president of Òmnium, a cultural organisation with more than 100,000 members, is in prison in a democracy for defending the right to vote?

This is what the yellow ribbon of solidarity means. We proclaim our innocence and our status as prisoners of conscience, and we eagerly await the day when no yellow ribbon will have to be worn anywhere, by football managers or anyone else.

• Jordi Cuixart is the 10th president of Òmnium Cultural, an organisation set up to promote the Catalan language and spread the region’s culture


Jordi Cuixart

The GuardianTramp

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