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Quim Torra: «This case will go to European courts»

Prof. Dr. Axel Schönberger

Nov 27, 2019 — 

Last Words of the Right Honourable President of the Generalitat de Catalunya Quim Torra in the trial for disobedience against him on 18 November 2019.

«Good afternoon!

I will address you as Your Excellency, president of the tribunal of this court, ladies and gentlemen!

First of all, I think it is my turn to clarify a fact that you have not allowed me before, which is why I did not reply to the Public Prosecutor's Office when I had the opportunity to reply. I was able to explain why I had not replied to VOX. And I'll explain it to you, I think the court needs to know, and probably also the citizenry. Since Mr. Pedro Sanchez, the acting president of the Spanish government, said that the prosecutor's office depended on the state government, it no longer has any kind of impartiality. The Public Prosecutor's Office is no longer a body that watches over legality, but that watches over the interests of the state government. And I …

Sir …” [interrupts the president of the court.]

I suppose now you will allow me to express myself in freedom.

I remind you of the same consideration [the President of the Court continues] that I gave you at the beginning. You have the right to address to the court and to the parties and to the public the final word and considerations. But what I as president of this court and responsible for public order in its development can not consent to anyone failing to consider and respect any of the parties. Nor to the public prosecutor, whatever the person who said it may have said.”

The Public Prosecutor in his intervention said that I had ‟taken me upstairs”. He used some adjectives that I don't think I'm using. I am simply saying that I have not replied to the Public Prosecutor's Office because I believe that it is not a guarantor of legality, but rather a guarantor of the government's interests. That's it. That was all I wanted to say about it. And if you will allow me now, I will continue talking about what I consider to be these words of last defense, where I believe I also have the right not to be interrupted by you. My defence lawyer has also commented that this is not the first time that a president of the Generalitat has sat before a court. Unfortunately, since the partial recovery of Catalan sovereignty in 1931 with the Generalitat of Catalonia, nine presidents of the Generalitat have been subjected to some kind of trial, they have had to go into exile. A president of the Generalitat whom I hold in high esteem, President Josep Irla, died in exile. He died in exile precisely after taking over the presidency of the Generalitat under truly exceptional, very difficult conditions, following a state crime committed by Spain against President Lluís Companys, murdering him with the collaboration of the Nazi agents of the Gestapo and also of the Spanish Franco police. All we need to know is what happened to the last three presidents of the Generalitat of Catalonia. The Right Honourable President Artur Mas was also judged by this court. Not only that, he is also sentenced and condemned and even with a desire to ruin his family through the intervention of the Court of Auditors. Or what is happening with the Right Honourable President Carles Puigdemont who lives in exile simply because he was the president who, together with the members of his government, allowed the Catalans to exercise their legitimate right to self-determination, voting in a referendum of independence from Catalonia, and then proclaiming it on 27 October.

But it is certainly exceptional, it is the first time that an incumbent president of the Generalitat has sat on the bench of the accused. This makes it a special trial. And I think that in order to prevent more presidents of the Generalitat from sitting in these benches of the accused by a justice that we can in no way consider to be impartial justice and I will try to explain later. This is yet another reason why a large majority of Catalans want to convert and complete our process of independence and, therefore, convert us into a Catalan Republic. Because it is the only option that Catalans have for their rights to be respected, for this country to be governed in a radically democratic manner, for human, civil, social and political rights to be observed at all times and for the will of the people to be respected first and foremost. The popular will, which is the first republican institution. And the second, I add, should be to respect it, to respect it.

There are some very nice words that unfortunately I did not write, but they are as follows: ‟If freedom of expression is taken from us then, stunned and in silence, they will lead us like sheeps towards the slaughterhouse.” They are not mine, they belong to the first president of the United States, President Washington. By the way, a country that liberated itself from its British dominion simply by the force of freedom, endowing itself with a constitution of its own and embracing that independence with all its yearnings for freedom. But I think I can use the phrase to tell them that we Catalans are not sheeps. This has already been said by Councillor Turull. And I have not come here dazed or in silence. I have come here firm and determined — I think my defence has also expressed this — to tell you that I have not come here to defend myself against anything. That I fulfilled the duty of my office and that if I come to something it is to accuse the state, not only of having violated my rights, but of having pretended that it violated the rights of my compatriots. That this trial did not have the necessary guarantees seems obvious to me and the defense has made it clear. That you, this tribunal, is not an impartial tribunal seems even more obvious to me. And I am sorry, I say it from the bottom of my heart, I am very sorry. I studied law. For some years he worked as a lawyer for an insurance company. I love justice. I have studied Catalan Public Law, those old Catalan institutions from before 1714 when the Catalans, yes, who ruled ourselves. I have also studied Catalan Civil Law and, therefore, from this esteem for justice I do not believe that we, the defence, that I myself, had to ask for its recusal. I believe that you should have abstained from being here today. Honestly, I say this to you sincerely, and I can only regret that, to make matters worse, you have now just rejected what I believe was another right that I had that this case should also be evaluated by the Court of Justice of the European Union. I am very sorry about that. But in any case I am sure that this case will also go to the European courts, where we Catalans find justice we can no longer find any part of the Spanish state.

But allow me also, at this point in my speech, to address all those people who, through the fault of justice, have rightly been deprived of fundamental rights. We have seen it in the process of our colleagues, but we are seeing it every day, we are seeing it in the amount that is still pending to be evaluated, of all the people who at the moment have pending or are involved in any of the summaries, whether of the courts of first instance or the members of the Audit Office of the first of October, or are also the people who in recent months and weeks have been detained and we see how they are not respected neither their presumption of innocence nor their right to defence. To all of them, to all their families, I would like to send my deepest sympathy.

If the question is whether or not I complied with the order of the central electoral board, the answer could not be simpler: of course not. I could not and should not, as President of the Generalitat. If the question is whether I had to abide by it, I think my lawyers have also made it very clear. Of course not, because you can't obey an order that is illegal. The strategy of the central electoral board has consisted precisely in putting everyone together, and I believe that you too are faced with this dilemma of having to disobey or have to prevaricate. And I have many obligations as President of the Generalitat, many of them. But the first, the first, is to watch over the rights and freedoms of my compatriots. All rights and freedoms. In this country it has cost a lot, many generations of Catalans have had to fight many shared struggles, as my friend Jordi Cuixart says, they have had to move forward. Because the struggles are shared and the freedoms are supportive. And so that we can all enjoy the supportive freedoms of this country, many people have had to fight, inch by inch, for their rights and freedoms, generation after generation. I regret that the prosecutor has said that the issue of banning banners is only for the election period. It is false. At this moment, he has asked us, via an administrative contentious appeal for a precautionary measure that we also remove, outside the electoral period, the banners for political prisoners and exiles, which will end up causing me another complaint. In any case, if in order to defend the rights and liberties of my compatriots I have to come here in a trial and be condemned, then I welcome the condemnation. Because I want to say to you clearly and loudly:

— I do not come stunned or come in silence. I come to tell you that I will never renounce defending the civil, social and political rights of all Catalan citizens, of all, not only of the supporters of the sovereignty of Catalonia, of all.

— That I will never renounce Catalonia's right to self-determination.

— That I will never renounce defending our political prisoners and exiles and that I will never renounce the dignity of all those who have held the office of President of the Generalitat and who have preceded me.

On the first of October 2017 the Catalans took a historic decision, I believe that you also intervened and you know it perfectly well. The Catalans voted against unprecedented police violence, against violence protected by the King of Spain. More than two million Catalans voted and decided to vote in favour of constituting us into an independent state in the form of a republic. And this decision, ladies and gentlemen, has entailed enormous sacrifices for many people, enormous sacrifices for many families. It has been an emotional shock that this country is still living with this disorder. And you cannot prevent us from one day and another ceasing to vindicate all those who have suffered the most, all those who have suffered the most because they have defended the rights of all of us.

You know that I was elected president of the Generalitat in the midst of the application of Article 155, when the Catalans did not govern ourselves. That is why there was no president of the Generalitat in the Palau de la Generalitat. For a series of anti-democratic actions, if I may say so, for a series of judicial interventions by the Constitutional Court that prevented different candidates for the presidency of the Generalitat, starting with President Puigdemont and ending with my friend Jordi Turull and also Jordi Sánchez, since they could not be elected presidents of the Generalitat. But I was finally elected by the Parliament of Catalonia, which is the only one to which I owe obedience, because that is where the sovereignty of the Catalans lies. And this trial, which is a political trial, simply wants to annul that vote, it simply wants to alter the Catalan political landscape. That is what it is. This has been the case from the outset. This is what I wanted and, I regret to say to you, that in this country we are governed democratically and where the presidents of the Generalitat are elected is the Parliament of Catalonia.

We Catalans are a peaceful people, we are a profoundly democratic people. We are told that we will break Europe, when it is impossible. Because we are part of Europe and we feel that European values, the values of humanism, tolerance and the republican values of solidarity and fraternity are part of our way of being. We are proud of our history, albeit a little sad indeed. And of our culture, and of our language which, by the way, is so little used in the courts in Catalonia. We are diverse, we are generous, welcoming, that is how we Catalans are. We are aware that one word moves our history, only one, which is freedom. And perhaps because, as Mercè Rodoreda said, the desire for freedom in man is rather a desire for justice. To what extent freedom and justice, but real justice, go together. I assure you that we will never surrender and that we will continue to fight for what we consider to be the freedom and justice that our people deserve.

This court can condemn me, yes, it can condemn me. But it will not change the legitimacy of those who elected me. It can condemn me, yes, but it will not change at all the commitment I have made to the people of Catalonia. It can condemn me, but it will not change the will of the people of Catalonia. And it may condemn me, certainly, but it will not change the destiny of this country.

Democracy always wins. And human rights always win. And freedom will always end up winning in this country as well. In the face of history, remember that your condemnation will be your condemnation. Yesterday it was just a year and a half ago that I promised the post of president of the Generalitat of Catalonia. I am the 131st president of this institution. I promised the post, promising that I would carry out my duties with fidelity to the will of the people of Catalonia represented in the Parliament of Catalonia. I insist, it is only in the Parliament of Catalonia that the sovereignty of the Catalans lies. Only the Parliament of Catalonia chooses its presidents or censors them, if necessary. And we have recently experienced a failed motion of censure. This commitment of loyalty to the people of Catalonia is the commitment that I have tried with all honesty to follow during this past year and a half and that I will follow during all the months that I continue as president of the Generalitat until the parliament of Catalonia does not take away its confidence from me.

And I also end, finally, with the same words that I finished my investiture speech, which is my political guide and which I hope will soon become a reality in our country as well: Long live free Catalonia!»

The original text in Catalan was kindly provided by the magazine L'Unilateral — El digital de la República Catalana.


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