ANALYSIS: Enough of the potty protests, Madrid's trial of Catalan leaders will be a civilised matter

Matthew Bennett
Matthew Bennett - [email protected]
ANALYSIS: Enough of the potty protests, Madrid's trial of Catalan leaders will be a civilised matter
Protestors dump muck outside a court in Catalonia. Photo: CDR/ Twitter

Catalan separatists may have resorted to using human waste to protest against the upcoming trial of their leaders in Madrid, but Spanish authorities are determined to ensure the contentious and emotive court proceedings pass off in a civilized manner.


At the end of the recent Netflix documentary on 2017's Catalan separatist crisis, in which his party and he himself had been given most of the screen time to advance their preferred narrative, and after being given one of the famous little defecating nativity figures, a caganer, of himself, as a gift, a chuckling Carles Puigdemont remarked that Catalan humour was very scatalogical.

Yesterday, the radical separatist protest groups known as the CDR boasted on their Twitter and Telegram channels that they had smeared the steps of several courts in Catalonia with another type of offering, actual excrement and rubbish, in protest at the imminent trial of their leaders for rebellion and the misuse of public funds at the Supreme Court in Madrid.

In case someone had missed the metaphor, the slogan for their peculiar return to jungle-level public affairs was "justice is shit". One graffiti sprayed on the wall of the court building in Cervera, near Lérida, read "Spanish justice stinks of fascist shit".

The courts in Catalonia were not impressed with the lack of subtlety and issued a statement "firmly and energetically" condemning the disgusting mess and regretting the indignity occasioned to citizens using the facilities.

This is not the first time separatists have marked their territory with turds—it happened during the "war of the yellow ribbons" last summer—but just as the pointless hunger strike before Christmas achieved nothing, these new piles of steaming stools will have no effect on the trial about to take place 600km away in the Spanish capital.

From even further away, in Belgium, Mr. Puigdemont gave an interview to the Associated Press and insisted that he would be supporting his former colleagues during the process "because they are suffering a terribly unjust and humiliating situation" and that the trial "will not be an act of justice but rather one of vengeance".

On February 1st, the Supreme Court issued its long list of people who have been accepted or rejected as witnesses for the trial, including over 100 police officers. The former Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, the former chief of the Catalan Police, Major Trapero, and the Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, are all in.

The King, political activist/philosopher Noam Chomsky and Hispanophile historian Paul Preston are all out, His Majesty because Spanish law forbids it and Messrs. Chomsky and Preston because their work as intellectual heavyweights is of no use in determining what happened during the events in question.

And despite his role at the time, Mr. Puigdemont will not be allowed to testify from Belgium: he should be on trial himself, ruled the court.

"During a criminal trial, the witness is examined on the facts he has direct or referential knowledge of; the expert judges subject matter for which scientific, technical or artistic notions are required. In our system, there is no procedural figure that allows for the identification of the witness invited to trial to offer his personal opinions on the facts."

The court has also ruled that international observers, requested by the defence teams, are unnecessary: all of the sessions will be streamed live on TV and the Internet, without interruption. "The immediate consequence is that every citizen who wishes to become a national or international observer of the trial process may do so. And not in the limited number of five suggested by the defence".

Even a cursory reading of the rest of the 145-page evidence ruling shows the judges are accepting witnesses and documents that can attest to what happened directly and rejecting witnesses, however well-educated or informed, who cannot do so directly.

This is the job of courts the world over and this one is a multi-judge bench from the Supreme Court of the Kingdom of Spain, so onlookers may be reassured by the very high level of legal guarantees available.

Fortunately for Spaniards, the magistrates are taking the whole affair very seriously indeed, far from both the cowardly rhetoric of Mr. Puigdemont in Belgium and the infantile and angry potty protests that have dirtied court buildings in Catalonia this week.

A black ribbon is pictured on the European Union flag and a banner reading "Self determination is a right, not a crime" hangs from the balcony of EU offices in Barcelona during a protest in February 1st.. Photo: AFP

The accused would perhaps protest they are taking it all too seriously, given the 30-year maximum sentences contained in the Spanish Criminal Code for leaders convicted of rebellion, which includes declaring the independence of a part of the nation.

There was a declaration of independence on October 27th, 2017—Mr. Puigdemont told the AP it was still valid—which, had the courts and police not intervened, would have led to a fifth of Spanish GDP and 6 percent of the surface area of Spain, as well as everyone and everything in it, whether they agreed or not, being lopped off the map of the nation to create a new state, an independent republic.

The Constitution did not, and does not, allow that to happen, and both the October referendum and the regional laws passed to justify it in September were therefore quickly declared unconstitutional.

Beyond the international rhetoric and media-friendly annual demonstrations, and despite Mariano Rajoy's unimaginative response for most of the period, Catalan separatists' continued contempt for the rule of law is what has brought Spain to this point over the past six and a half years.

The prosecution alleges some of the actions by some of those people reached the level of criminal behaviour on those specific occasions and should therefore be duly punished, and the defence teams will now attempt to prove otherwise. Whatever the outcome, it will be a civilised matter, because that is what the law does to public affairs.

Matthew Bennett is the creator of The Spain Report. You can read more of his writing on Patreon, and follow him on Twitter. Don't miss his podcast series with weekly in-depth analysis on Spain.



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