A recent Guardian column by Alfred Bosch (theguardian.com, 5 June), a regional minister in the Catalan government, claimed that elected members of the Catalan parliament and their constituents are being denied their democratic and political rights in Spain “for purely political reasons”. The true situation is quite different. The bureau of the lower chamber and the senate of the Spanish parliament suspended MP status for four Catalan politicians who are currently in pre-trial detention. The four are waiting for a ruling of the supreme court, following a criminal trial for serious offences. The trial sessions were conducted with full guarantees, transparency and were broadcast live. The suspensions were not based on political grounds as Mr Bosch claims, but follow the strict application of Spanish law.
Mr Bosch refers to three other people who stood for the European elections on 26 May. One of them, Oriol Junqueras, is in pre-trial detention, the two other, Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín are both fugitives from justice and currently living outside Spain. EU member states are responsible for notifying the European parliament of the list of candidates who have been formally declared elected. To qualify as an elected MEP, a candidate must express his or her loyalty to the Spanish constitution, and he has to do that in person, in Madrid. It happens that neither Mr Puigdemont nor Mr Comín wanted to come to Spain, to avoid being accountable to justice. Mr Junqueras, who is in pre-trial detention, has not been authorised to leave prison to comply with the above-mentioned procedure; however, this is a decision taken by the Spanish supreme court.
The three have had, or could have in future their political rights limited under Spanish law, but not because of their political ideas as Mr Bosch implies, but because of their allegedly criminal acts. The vindication of the independence of Catalonia can be defended in the Spanish parliament and in the European parliament by other MPs that do not have pending criminal proceedings.
Mr Bosch also refers to a recent non-binding opinion – issued by a UN human rights council working group on arbitrary detention. Spain is strongly committed to upholding the UN system. However, I must express utter astonishment at the striking lack of accuracy in many of the conclusions of this document. Among other things it ignores the fact that Spain, like any democracy, operates a separation of powers, so the release of anyone in pre-trial detention is a matter solely for the judiciary, not the government.
I agree with Mr Bosch that Catalonia – like the rest of Spain – is committed to the values of Europe. This means, first and foremost, that everyone must be subject to the rule of law. Altering the constitutional order by illegal or undemocratic channels is not permitted. The Spanish constitution created one of the most decentralised states in the world, and grants extensive powers to its autonomous regions. Indeed, it also provides for a specific procedure of reform. This is the right way forward.
Spanish secretary of state for justice
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