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‟The dignity of having defended legitimate and noble ideas” — Closing remarks of Josep Rull

Prof. Dr. Axel Schönberger

Jul 27, 2019 — 

‟The dignity of having defended legitimate and noble ideas” — Closing remarks of the legitimate Councillor for Territory and Sustainability of the Generalitat de Catalunya, Josep Rull, in the Madrid political trial of 12 June 2019

The legitimate Minister of Territory and Sustainability of the Catalan government was declared deposed by Spain on 28 October 2017 in violation of an organic law of the Spanish state and, at this moment, as member of the Catalan Parliament, imprisoned by the Spanish judiciary, in recognizable collusive cooperation with the Spanish government, since 23 March 2018, without any discernible basis for it in Spanish criminal law. He is a member of the Spanish Congress of Deputies since 21 May 2019 and has been suspended since 24 May 2019. He is a political prisoner in Spain and, therefore, also in the European Union, whose fate is followed with compassion throughout the world.

According to the United Nations Working Group against Arbitrary Detention, the detention of Josep Rull is arbitrary. The criminal proceedings against him, which are conducted in the first and only (!) instance before the Supreme Court in Madrid, have no basis. It violates mandatory international law (ius cogens), European law and Spanish law. The way Spain deprives Josep Rull of his civil rights clearly recalls the injustice of German National Socialism and Spanish Francoism.

According to the United Nations' competent body, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, set up by the Human Rights Council, Spain is, in the case of Josep Rull, in violation of Articles 2, 9 to 11 and 18 to 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 2, 14, 19, 21, 22, 25 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Josep Rull is being detained in Spain for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of opinion, expression, association, assembly and political participation. His imprisonment violates the principle of the equality of all human beings, because it was justified by his political opinion. The criminal proceedings brought against him do not even provide the basic guarantees for a proper and fair trial before a competent and impartial court and for an adequate defence. The trial against him, a cheap farce, is a disgrace to Spain and to the European Union as a whole, which tacitly tolerates these serious violations of Human Rights.

May all people of good will hear the last words of Josep Rull in the Madrid show trial!

And Europe remains silent and only watching!

Concluding remarks by Josep Rull before the Supreme Court in Madrid on 12 June 2019:

«I would also like to begin these words with the desire to thank our lawyers, Jordi, Quico, Anna and Míriam, who are not only excellent professionals, excellent lawyers, but who also, above all, gave us a touch of humanity and sensibility, which was important. Today they are more than our lawyers, today they are our friends. A ‘thank you’ also goes to our families, to my family. They have endured and respected my political commitment for many years. And they suffered from it. To my wife, Meritxell, who has to raise two small children; to my mother, Marona, who suffers a lot from it and doesn't understand what the hell is going on here and what we were doing; to my brothers and sisters; to my remaining family, to my friends, who are always here, who are always there! And also an infinite gratitude to the people of Catalonia! What a great honor to serve this people, these people who are able to rise every day and dream of a better future for themselves and their children!

With this in mind, I would like to appear here with great conviction and extraordinary calm. I have faced and answered the questions of the public prosecutor's office, and in particular I am completely clear with my conscience. There are some questions that need to be asked in this road process:

— Is this a process about ideas or a process about facts?

— How does politics deal with a problem of a political nature?

And the most important thing, the most relevant thing:

— How is the rule of law responding to the democratic challenge that has been raised in Catalonia and Spain and is being raised at the moment?

And I'm afraid the answers aren't too positive, they're not too good.

With regard to politics, there is a refusal of politics, a refusal before a dialogue. And as far as the reaction of the rule of law is concerned, I fear that there is a certain tendency to perforate the system of rights and freedoms with exceptions.

I'm on trial. The required sentence is sixteen years for four offences, four:

— The first 'offence' is to have signed a timetable which forms the basis for an electoral programme.

— The second 'fact' is that I took part several times in meetings to prepare myself for the process of Catalonia's independence, without it being substantiated when and how and what specific projects were there at each of these meetings.

— The third 'offence' is to investigate my ministry's decision not to authorise the anchoring of a ship in the port of Palamós. What I essentially did was to evaluate this decision, to protect it through social networks and to protect the economic viability of the port of Palamós and to show the risk to exports in the port of Barcelona. I did all this, and I did it in the best of faith. I believe that as a ‟Conseller de Territori i Sostenibilitat” (‟Minister for Territorial Affairs and Sustainability”) I have acted reasonably and seriously.

— And the fourth accusation, which is based on an interview completely manipulated by the public prosecutor's office, this manipulation, ladies and gentlemen, is unworthy of a serious public prosecutor's office in a functioning and proportionate constitutional state.

These are the four reasons. They essentially refer to rights:

— the right to freedom of expression, the right to draw up an electoral programme;

— the right to freedom of expression, to position myself through interviews or Twitter messages;

— the right of assembly.

Those are the fundamental rights. Request for sixteen years imprisonment.

But I am not only accused of rebellion for these reasons, as has already been mentioned, but I intuitively suspect — and hopefully I am mistaken — that rebellion criminal proceedings are brought against me mainly because I have not given up my political activity. That's the real reason.

We appeared before this court when we were summoned, we appeared before the local court after we had been released for the first time to sign each week apud acta.

But the basic aim was that, as far as we were still active in politics and as far as we were Members of the Catalan Parliament, we should be suspended as Members of Parliament. Is that just a vague hunch? No, no, no! The Minister of Justice of the Kingdom of Spain, the former Minister Rafael Catalá, in an interview with Espejo Público on 1 February [2018], wrote down the terms and conditions of our suspension and how the instruction to simply suspend us should be carried out with this aim in mind. And for us to be suspended, we had to go back to prison and be charged with rebellion. And that is not normal, it is not normal for something like this to happen, a strong constitutional state does not need such measures to protect itself from threats of any kind.

The second point I would like to make regarding the Constitution is that the prosecutor's office has made it very clear that we have attacked the ‟heart of the Constitution”. Allow me to approach the Constitution and Catalonia from a very, very subjective position: Catalonia as a nation existed before the Constitution, the Catalan institutions existed before the Constitution, in 1359 the ‟Generalitat de Catalunya” was founded in the Cortes de Cervera. But there is one fact that is hardly known: In 1978, the Constitution received in the territory of the Spanish State the largest approval in Catalonia. 91% of Catalans voted for the Constitution at that time, more than in Madrid, more than in Andalusia, more than in Castile, more than in Galicia, more than in Extremadura. An area in which the Constitution was a starting point for many Catalans, it was a state pact, it was an agreement with a fundamental basic idea: let us move on to democracy, let us restore rights and freedoms! But there was one obvious condition in return: One recognizes the national reality of Catalonia, one recognizes this national reality and the right of Catalonia to restore its self-government, destroyed during the Civil War.

The question is:

What led to 49.7% of Catalans voting in favour of options which are clearly aimed at Catalan sovereignty at the last elections, the European elections?

That is the question, that is the consideration, there is a political problem here, and it can be solved politically.

What is the circumstance that causes this situation?

The 2010 Constitutional Court ruling: by an understaffed Constitutional Court (two judges missing) that has lost its prestige and says two things in its decision: ‟If you, Catalans, feel like a nation, that's not your constitution.” Many Catalans believed that they felt very well like a nation. ‟If you feel like a nation, if you are a nation, this is not your state.” Many Catalans believed that they were indeed a nation. When the Spanish state gives up being the state of the Catalans, many Catalans believe that Catalonia has the right to build its own state to guarantee progress, justice and prosperity, and how is this achieved? Democratically, peacefully.

Allow me to share an experience I had in my village of Terrassa, a debate on the mechanism by which we can get out of this situation, through a referendum. Debate, Person A, Catalan speaker, ‟we cannot hold a referendum, we cannot vote, we belong to Spain”, and another gentleman stands up, a Catalan whose place of origin is in Extremadura, an elderly gentleman, one of those who got involved during the ‘transition’, and says: ‟We were not afraid of the dictatorship, are we going to be afraid of democracy now? I don't know what I'm going to vote for, I don't know if I'm going to vote yes or no, but I want to decide, I want to vote.”

And this is the wave that triggered the first of October, and this is the mandate we received as a government of Catalonia, as a government under the ‟legitimate president of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont”, this is the idea. The strong pact, the weak impose. The United Kingdom or Canada know that they have something interesting to offer the Scots and Canadians, and therefore the vote is not a problem for them, it is not a threat and they are looking for mechanisms in their legal framework to allow such an expression of will. The weak command, the weak rely on the refusal of a dialogue, they enforce in the present case that a political question is treated as a question of fundamental criminal relevance.

There's an announcer, a well-known Spanish radio announcer, who says, ‟You can't ban problems, you solve problems.”

Two final considerations, Your Honour, the first: When I appeared for my first hearing, I was asked: ‟What conversations did you have with foreign visitors on October 1?” I didn't have time to explain. They were Members of the European Parliament of various political persuasions: Social Democrats, Christian Democrats, Liberals, Greens. They said: ‟This process, what is happening in Catalonia, is very important, as is what is happening in Spain”. They visited us in prison and told us: ‟What is happening in this process is of great importance because Spain is an important country, it is a great state of the European Union. Depending on the verdict you are given on the limits of rights and freedoms, this may have absolutely negative and damaging consequences in the face of a Europe besieged by the extreme right”.

You have the opportunity, and this is your very great responsibility, to say what the limits of rights and freedoms are, be it a restrictive interpretation such as that of the public prosecutor, the right of demonstration, the right of assembly, freedom of expression or a powerful interpretation. Democracy is defended with more democracy and rights with more rights.

And I come to the end. So far you have decided with your decisions, with my imprisonment, that I cannot see my two children Bernat, 10 years old, and Roger, 4 years old, growing up. But whatever the content of the judgment they make in the end, they will not prevent me from leaving them something extraordinary: the dignity of having defended noble and legitimate ideas. They will not prevent me from giving them a witness, a modest witness of our commitment, of our democratic, tough, tireless and passionate struggle, so that tomorrow they can live in a better country, in a free country, in a Catalan republic where it is simply impossible for anyone to be imprisoned because he has peacefully defended his ideals.

‟We shall overcome”, we will prevail, because this huge wave of freedom and hope is unstoppable, because hope is more powerful than fear, because more and more will come after us. There are not enough prisons to include the longing for freedom of a people, so simple, so clear.

I close with a few words from Salvador Espriu, who in his ‟Inici de càntic en el temple” (‟Start of Hymn in the Temple”) makes an appeal that it is worth remembering here and now. He said:

‟Ara digueu:
Nosaltres escoltem les veus del vent
per l'alta mar d'espigues.

Ara digueu — ara diguem:
Ens mantindrem fidels per sempre més
al servei d'aquest poble.”

‟Now say:
We listen for the voice of the wind
through the high sea of stalks.

Now say — now, we say:
We shall stay faithful forever
serving this country.”

Thank you very much, Mr President of the Court.»

A transcription of the Castilian original, the basis for the English translation, was kindly provided by the magazine L'Unilateral — El digital de la República Catalana.

"Now, we say" is an addition made by Josep Rull to the poem.

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