Spanish Government accused of 'anti-democratic repression' in Catalonia

By staff writers
September 21, 2017

The Spanish government faces condemnation from human rights groups, progressive politicians and activists across the world in the wake of arrests of Catalan officials backing a regional independence vote on 1 October 2017. 

Spanish Guardia Civil officers raided a dozen Catalan government offices and arrested 14 senior officials on Wednesday 20 September. Polling station signs and documents for electoral officers were also seized during a raid on a warehouse in a town outside Barcelona.

The Catalan government has confirmed that Josep Maria Jové, Secretary General of economic affairs and an aide to the Catalan vice-president, and Lluis Salvado, the secretary of taxation, were among those arrested.

Some 10 million voting slips have also been seized, 1.5 million posters and campaign material destroyed, threatening warrants issued to 700 mayors and newspaper offices raided by police in a crackdown authorised by the Spanish government, which says that the referendum is illegal because Spain's constitution says that nothing can be allowed to violate the unity of the state.

Those who back the referendum to settle the hotly contested issue dispute this, citing the mandate the Catalan government has,  the principle of self-determination in international law, and "anti-democratic violations of civil rights" including freedom of expression, assembly and political organisation.

Overnight, hundreds of thousands took to the streets of Barcelona and other Spanish cities both inside and outside the region to protest against the actions authorised by right-wing Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy, who they accuse of using tactics similar to that of the Franco dictatorship. Meanwhile, arrests, raids and the seizing of election material continue. 

British Parliamentarians have expressed deep concerns over the situation in Catalonia through a letter sent in the name of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Catalonia at Westminster. 

Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has called for dialogue between the Catalan and Spanish governments to try to resolve the standoff. She added: "It is of course entirely legitimate for Spain to oppose independence for Catalonia, but what I think is of concern anywhere is for a state to deny the right of a people to democratically express their will.

"The right of self-determination is an important international principle and I hope very much it will be respected in Catalonia and everywhere else," declared Ms Sturgeon.

In Ireland, a request to have the situation in Catalonia debated in the Dáil has been accepted by the Ceann Comhairle. It will take place at around 17.10 on Thursday 21 September.

Carles Puigdemont, who heads Catalonia’s pro-sovereignty government, has described the raids as a “a co-ordinated police assault” which show that Madrid “has de facto suspended self-government and applied a de facto state of emergency”. The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, has condemned the raids as “a democratic scandal”.

Simon Barrow, director of the beliefs and ethics thinktank Ekklesia, commented: "Whatever your view on an independent Catalonia, Spain's attempt to crush a vote with arrests of politicians and officials, raids on newspaper offices, destruction of ballot papers, financial sanctions and intimidation of elected mayors is not acceptable behaviour from a modern, democratic European nation."


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