Dear Human Rights Defenders,
I have been incarcerated since October 2017, held without bail and charged with sedition and rebellion, crimes which under Spain’s Penal Code require having committed violence with a view to overthrowing the state, which obviously never occurred. Nonetheless in the coming weeks, I face a sentence of up to 17 years in prison for my “crime”, which was leading a peaceful demonstration using my right to free speech and freedom of assembly to defend Catalonia’s self-determination referendum on 1 October 2017.
I speak as the president of Òmnium Cultural (Culture For Everybody), the biggest civil society group in Spain with over 175,000 members, 58 years of history and no public funding, an NGO that was banned for 3 years in the 1960s by the Franco dictatorship.
There are nine of us political prisoners in this political vendetta trial. In my case and that of my colleague Jordi Sànchez, also a civil society leader, Spain is calling for a sentence of 17 years. Both the Spanish government, headed by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, and the highly politicized judiciary are ignoring the opinion of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which in a June opinion stated that our detention is arbitrary and called for our immediate release. They have also ignored numerous calls for our release and the dropping of charges from groups such as Amnesty International, the World Organisation Against Torture and Front Line Defenders.
As with any abuse of power, the fact that Spain is using the courts and criminal law to undermine basic human rights it is very bad news for Europe as a whole, and for the world. Fighting for human rights in Catalonia is the same as doing so in Turkey, India, Western Sahara, Russia, the U.S. or in Brazil’s Amazonia.
But whatever happens, all of us will once again exercise the human rights that they condemn, that they want to limit, whatever our sentence. This is why we stated loud and clear before the court trying us that we will do it again.
I am the proud father of four children, one of them a beautiful baby born just a week ago today. But my priority is no longer to get out of prison, but to seek a democratic solution to the political conflict between Catalonia and Spain, through sincere dialogue and negotiation, as Scotland with the United Kingdom and Quebec with Canada have done. We are not born to share hate, but love.
Non-violent action, and as a last resort civil disobedience, are today essential tools for democratic change to build a better world. This has recently been shown by Carola Rackete and Oscar Camps on the European coasts, heeding the call for humanitarian conscience by saving refugees.
715 nights in prison have only strengthened my commitment to human rights: within these walls, I have become increasingly aware of the dire situation we are seeing all over the world. The abuse of human rights has stolen lives and futures from hundreds of thousands of people and the humanitarian challenges are enormous: the climate crisis, inequality, indifference to refugees fleeing famine or war and the persecution of political dissidence affect all our struggles. This conference is a source of hope and at the same time of inescapable responsibility.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to offer my most sincere thanks to the organisations defending human rights for their essential daily work, as well as for their support for our freedom, and in particular to Front Line Defenders for allowing us to share our testimony today.
Thank you very much for your time.
In hope for the days to come. Sempre endavant!
President of Òmnium Cultural
Lledoners prison, Catalonia, 1st October 2019