By Dave Sewell
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Outrage after Spanish state jails and abuses Catalan government ministers

This article is over 6 years, 3 months old
Issue 2579
People poured on to the streets in protest at the jaillings
People poured on to the streets in protest at the jaillings

Revelations about detained Catalan government ministers have intensified the bitter anger felt by many people in Catalonia.

Spanish authorities jailed the vice president and seven ministers of the deposed Catalan government on Thursday. They will be held and then tried on possible charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds after the bid for independence.

They join in jail the leaders of the two main independence campaigns, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez. 

David Karvala of revolutionary socialist group Marx 21 told Socialist Worker from Barcelona, “On Friday the lawyer for most of the imprisoned ministers explained on television about their mistreatment in the custody of the Guardia Civil.

“They were handcuffed behind their backs, and bounced around in the back of the Guardia Civil van for four hours with no safety belts. They were taken on a long trip to different prisons.

“One needed medical attention for injuries to his wrist.

“There’s a video circulating on social media where three Spanish police joke among themselves about the mistreatment by the Guardia Civil, then about possible sexual abuse the vice president could suffer in prison.

“There is no indication of any official investigation into their behaviour; in other words, it’s accepted as normal”.


Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, facing threats of charges carrying a 30 year prison sentence, and some Catalan government ministers fled to Belgium. They have ignored the court summons and remain free.

But a Spanish national court judge on Friday issued a European Arrest Warrant for Puigdemont in response to a request from state prosecutors.

This will initiate a procedure designed to speed up the handover of criminal suspects between EU states. Judges in Belgium will have to decide if the extradition is “proportional” to the seriousness of the offence and the costs of removing the individual.

The jailings have triggered outrage in Catalonia.

Thursday saw protests outside workplaces at lunchtime and outside government buildings in the evening. These were followed by late night “cassoladas”—noisy protests banging pots and pans.

A poster of the anti-capitalist, pro-independence CUP party
A poster of the anti-capitalist, pro-independence CUP party

The independence movement has regained a sense of angry momentum. 

Campaigners called a programme of actions leading up to a mass demonstration in Barcelona on Saturday 11 November. The days of 10-12 November must be a focus for international solidarity.

The WithCatalonia website has been launched to encourage international solidarity, and it has a Twitter feed @WithCatalonia

The largest party in the deposed coalition government, Catalan Republican Left (ERC), said on Thursday, “Today they have jailed the legitimate government of Catalonia.

“Today they have jailed democracy. But they know it is impossible to jail freedom.”


But the Spanish state’s attacks on civil liberties also outraged opponents of independence, such as Barcelona mayor Ada Colau.

She said, “It is a black day for Catalonia. The government that was democratically elected at the ballot box is in jail. We need a common front for the freedom of political prisoners”.

The special court’s decision to jail the Catalan government is in line with the strategy of right wing Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, who deposed the government. But it could backfire.

The indecision of Catalan leaders such as Puigdemont had left the mass movement for independence disoriented and demobilised and handed the initiative to Rajoy. The court’s attack could bring it back out fighting.

Repression of the 1 October referendum led to a general strike backed, crucially, even by the big anti-independence trade unions. The jailing of Cuixart and Sanchez led to the first big protests after a pause of several weeks.

Responding to attacks by the Spanish state isn’t enough. The movement needs leadership willing to take initiatives.

That’s something the working class activists at its grassroots will have to fight for in their unions and local Committees to Defend the Republic.

With the Spanish state’s thirst for revenge still unsatisfied and the movement in Catalonia back on the streets, everything is still to fight for.

The fight against Rajoy will be strongest if it is based on working class organisation that can also appeal to workers across the Spanish state and across Europe.

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