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‟The Catalans are not sheeps!” — Last words by Jordi Turull in the political show trial on Madrid

Prof. Dr. Axel Schönberger

Aug 6, 2019 — 

‟The Catalans are not sheeps” — Last words of Jordi Turull, Member of the Spanish Congress, in the political trial of Madrid on 12 June 2019

Jordi Turull was a member of the Catalan Parliament from 2004 to 17 May 2019. On 20 May 2019, he took up his mandate as a member of the Spanish Congress, from which he was immediately suspended — as an innocent citizen who is presumed innocent until he has been convicted — and jailed. As «Conseller de la Presidència» (Minister of the Presidency) and spokesman for the Catalan government, he was declared deposed by Spain on 28 October 2017 under breach of organic law of the Spanish state — without sufficient legal basis in the Spanish constitution — and subsequently imprisoned by the Spanish judiciary in recognizably collusive cooperation with the Spanish government since 23 March 2018 — one day before his planned election as President of Catalonia —, without there being any recognizable basis for this in Spanish criminal law. He is a prominent political prisoner in Spain and thus also in the European Union, whose fate is being followed with compassion throughout the world.

According to the United Nations Working Group against Arbitrary Detention, the detention of Jordi Turull 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 Jordi Turull 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 Jordi Turull, 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.

Jordi Turull 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 Jordi Turull in the Madrid show trial!

And Europe remains silent and only watching!

Last words by Jordi Turull before the Supreme Court in Madrid on 12 June 2019:

«Mr. President, Mrs. Judge, judge of the court!

Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen!

First of all I would like to add my voice to every single word my lawyer said yesterday in his oral summation and in all his pleadings, and I would like to use this final statement before you — in respect of everyone we are here — to express my total and absolute rejection of the charges. And I say respect and rejection, rejection and respect, because that is what has always characterised my life in particular and my political activity. And since I am here because of my political activity, I would like to start by saying exactly that, because for me it is not trivial. Because I understand that a large part of the origin, the evil, of the accusations against us lies in this.

They confuse dissent, criticism and protest with 'attack' and 'disrespect'. And this logic of confusing criticism with a lack of respect, with an 'attack', only exists in ways of thinking that are themselves very insecure, or in authoritarian attitudes. Such a thing never exists in systems that have a firm trust in themselves, or in deeply democratic mentalities.

During the course of the trial, we saw how criticism of the central government was equated with disrespect and an attack on the state, it is written. We saw how points of criticism of the Constitutional Court or judicial decisions were equated with an attack on or disregard of the judicial system. Criticism or protests in the face of the police were equated with attacks on the police or worse. Statements which are quite common in the heat of debate and political rhetoric are interpreted by some of the accusers as appeals to a I do not know how twisted way of inciting ‘violence’, there are thousands of examples, both in the pleadings and in what was orally represented in this courtroom by the prosecution. Either criticism is confused with an attack — or one wants to confuse it — or one wants to directly apply to us of [Catalan] sovereignty some 'rules of the game' that are different from those of the rest of mortals, or, which is my inner conviction, both at the same time.

Everything was fine in the eyes of the accusers. They didn't want to know what happened or how it happened or why it happened, but they wanted a 'punishment' (and they said it here!), which, as someone put it, should decapitate the sovereignty movement at any price, even if this ‟at any price” should consist in turning back the wheel of history on the actual realization of fundamental rights and freedoms by very many years, even if this ‟at any price” means interpreting the [legal] norms and rules of the game for some so and for others quite differently. To hear from the mouth of the public prosecutor's office, as we heard last week, that the holding of a referendum is a criminal offence, even though this offence has been removed from the penal code, dear judges, causes panic! The law faculties and the Congress of Deputies can already stop their activities, because the principle of legality has been abandoned to the afterlife, and all the arguments put forward by the accusers have underlined this principle of punishment at all costs.

But all this has also been presented with a lack of care and precision in terms of facts, data, people, places, personnel structure, knowledge of the functioning of the administration of the Catalan government or the [Catalan] parliament, which really makes you blush. And what I say can be fully verified by the court, because it is not an expression of opinion, it is a mere statement. We have heard expressions in this Chamber, in the form of interrogations, when there has been talk of ballot boxes, demonstrations, protests, public statements by one or the other, posters on street lamps of which the people of my generation, who are a little older, and I sincerely thought we only knew this from books and history.

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen of the court! This process is also about the extent to which we grant fundamental rights and freedoms. For us and, above all, for our children. Because if you look at the report and the interpretation that the state makes of fundamental rights and freedoms, I can assure you that we would go back to times gone by. Because it is outrageous that the sum of perfectly legal, permitted acts, the sum of assemblies which are perfectly normal in politics, or acts which, according to the legislation, are not punishable in any way, or the sum of acts which consist in the exercise of fundamental rights, should be used to construct one of the most serious crimes contained in the penal code. So let us not be deceived any more. Let us get to the bottom of the matter, to the origin of this whole criminal process: The facts at stake in this process have only one origin, and that origin is political. And some people in this room are trying to solve a political problem with criminal solutions. And as far as political realities are concerned, a politician must face them and, above all, those who are as strong and widespread as the will of the Catalan people to decide its political future. They cannot be ignored. They must not be banned as such. And even less must they be punished. We have always opted for dialogue, for reaching agreement. If there is no dialogue, it is impossible to reach agreement. And the government of the [Spanish] state always offered us either silence or contempt in the face of this reality, the threat as a banner and resignation as a way. Nevertheless, it was because of this will of the people of Catalonia that we insisted on solving the problem at the negotiating table. And the central government wanted to tackle it by putting us in the dock. POLITICS (in capital letters) and criminal law as a last resort have given up the spirit in this conflict over Catalonia, and not precisely because of us. But Catalonia, as I said, does not know the word 'resignation'. If we are beheaded, a few of us, they will not behead the sovereignty movement, let alone the will of so many, so many Catalans to decide their political future. Just a tiny amount of knowledge about the history of Catalonia, about the constant and cyclical attacks on its traditional self-government institutions, on its language, its culture, etc. ... Everyone knows that the conflict in question cannot be resolved in this way. And much less will they break the will of the people of Catalonia to exist and decide. Those who sit here are mere instruments of the outcry which is being raised in Catalonia. And not vice versa, as the accusers were anxious to put forward, Catalan society.

I want to talk about Catalan society because there were statements that hurt a lot. Catalan society is a mature society, whatever one may think of it. It has its own criteria. It has its own critical mass. I insist on what I said during my interview: The Catalans are not sheep, and violence was never part of their code of conduct, either by action or by omission! Just as it was never part of my code of conduct, it never was and never will be. And never means never. And any act, not only violent, but also uncivilized, however isolated, deserved and deserves our blame, and it deserves my blame. But to make a tiny exception a general rule is an insult to Catalan society!

As I have already said, given the reality — and a reality as complex as this one — a politician has an absolute duty to weigh everything up in order to decide at the moment of action, taking into account all the variables of the equation. That is what we did. That is what I did. What is unacceptable at this point is the attempt to introduce variables at the edge, variables that did not exist in this context. Look at that moment: the pent-up desire in Catalonia to be able to decide on its political future, confirmed in one election after the other; incredible, totally peaceful mobilizations in Catalonia for many years; an obvious public obligation to respect the mandate of the ballot boxes; the legal fact that the holding of a referendum was not a criminal offence; the possibility of carrying it out in accordance with court rulings; not a single case of incitement to violence; the precedent, as the referendum of 9 November [2014] had shown, and above all the consistently civilised and peaceful character of Catalan society. You may think about what you want! And from this point of view it was done that way. Not in the way it is said that we would have wanted it, not in the way it is written in all these fables, fables that, I stress, one [in the process] is anxious to bring in.

And October 1st [2017], and then October 1st. But how did you experience October 1? We want to explain how it was experienced, many witnesses have said how October 1 was experienced in more than 98% of polling stations. I was there and the prosecutors were not. I was there on 1 October. 1 October was experienced by the citizens with positive expectations. It was experienced with feelings. It was experienced with a sense of community. It was lived with the feeling of taking part in something great which had been persecuted for many years in a civil and peaceful way. It was a day of confirmation. For it, not against it. For acting as citizens. For a long time, people spoke out and told everyone, including us, what the Catalans [allegedly] wanted or did not want. On that day every citizen finally had the opportunity to leave his house freely, individually, as a citizen and peacefully in order to clarify his position. With a ballot as the only instrument, by ticking ‟Yes” or ‟No” or leaving the ballot blank. There were no masses, no quantities, not even people. There were people. There were citizens who were active as citizens. That was October 1st [2017], at more than 98% of polling stations.

And where some wanted to talk or have talked about looks filled with hatred, I can assure you, as some witnesses have assured you here, I can tell you of thousands and thousands of eyes shining with emotion that they were allowed to take part in this referendum. There were no human walls of 'passive violence'. In the face of the disproportionate nature of some police actions, what happened in Catalonia was summits of democratic dignity. This was the case on 1 October. And not such a fabulous piece which — I said it in the questioning by the prosecutors and the public prosecutor's office — seems to me like a complete delusion of what happened on 1 October.

And I would like, if the Court will allow me, to conclude my speech with a few words of thanks and commitment, I have written it, I have said it and I would like to say it here in front of you all. Thank you and commitment, because that is what fills my soul. And so great is my gratitude and my commitment, which have grown during all these months in prison, that there is no place for anything else. And there is no place for anything else, and I say there is no place, neither for resentment, nor for resentment against anything or anyone for the nonsense that has been said about us all these months and no matter how unjust the detention we have been in for so many months. First of all, thanks to our lawyers for their professional quality, for their humanity, which goes far beyond what can be expected at the professional level. Infinite gratitude to the thousands and thousands of people who did everything to make us never feel alone. They have transferred all their strength to us. They supported us and confirmed us. And even more gratitude for the way they did it, for their positive, always peaceful activism, as great as their indignation at such a situation may have been. Their support in the form of thousands of letters, how they constantly gather in the squares, climb mountains, cover long distances, erect human pyramids in front of the prisons, how many people gather in front of the prisons, who wish us ‟good night”, be it at Christmas, be it at the end of the year, etc., how they give concerts, how they sing on the street standing up. I don't think I will live enough years to be able to thank so many people so much.

And infinite gratitude to my family (the whole family). It is the best gift life has ever given me. I leave it at that. You already know what I want to tell you.

And I come to the end, I finish my remarks with commitment. I don't want to deceive anyone. I came to this bank as a defendant for my political activities. And because of my ideas. And because after I was released from prison for the first time, I did not give up my political activities. They were looking for differences among those of us sitting in the front and back rows: Voilà. I am here on trial because of my ideas and because I have not renounced my political activity. And that is not what I am saying. It was openly written down during the investigation.

And you see, I have experienced politics as a vocation and I experience it that way. Everyone has their own [vocation]. I have experienced it as a vocation since I was very young. Vocation to service, vocation to service to others. I am someone who loves Catalonia and have spent the best years of my life honestly working on what I thought was an improvement in the welfare and progress of Catalan citizens. Of course, as a person that I am, with all the successes and, I suppose, many mistakes that one may find. That is why my convictions are very deeply rooted. That is why the fact that my beliefs are very deeply rooted has always helped me to understand that there are people who have exactly the opposite beliefs, comparable or even more deeply rooted. In all the years that I have had the honour of being a Member of the Parliament of Catalonia, I have essentially devoted myself to one thing (and all the political forces can testify to this): I have devoted myself to concluding pacts and agreements. The pact and the agreement. Discrepancy and respect. That is what I have devoted myself to. And when I had the honour of being Minister of the Catalan Government, of the Presidential Office, when it was suggested to me, I also stood up for it, and for this: Respect and discrepancy, agreement and willingness to agree.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, I came to this dock, because I stood up peacefully and democratically for Catalonia's independence. I am in favour of our sovereignty, I will not hide it. I do and will do so by defending Catalonia's right to self-determination. I have stood up for it, I stand up for it, I will stand up for it. But I am also in favour of there being no way towards a dialogue; dialogue must always be the way. And I will get up from this bench, we will end this criminal trial and I can assure you that I will be more than ever convinced and committed to these ideals, these objectives and these attitudes. In this way, in my own way, to face political challenges. More committed than ever. With Catalonia, with the will of the citizens of Catalonia and more than ever committed to the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms.

Forgive my outburst of emotion! Thank you very much for your attention! And I join in the best wishes for the civil who retires.

Thank you very much!»

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.

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