Case 09

Jordi Sànchez, pacifist social leader sentenced to 9 years in prison for sedition

Social leader and candidate to the Presidency of the Catalan Government Jordi Sànchez under pre-trial detention.

“According to the judge I am indirectly responsible for a violence, that in spite of never having existed, he says that I imagined and assumed it as unavoidable. It looks like a joke but it is not.”

Amnesty International calls on Spain to release two jailed Catalan leaders. 25-11-2019

Description

Jordi Sànchez i Picanyol, a social leader and former deputy Ombudsman, was the President of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) at the moment of his detention. He was charged with sedition in connection with the events of September 20th, 2017, in which he mediated and dissolved a pacific demonstration against the Spanish police repression of the Catalan Referendum that was about to be celebrated.

His investigation – at the hands of the Public Prosecutor – began on 22nd September, 2017. He was later detained after being summoned to the National Court in Madrid on October 16, alongside Mr. Jordi Cuixart.  His challenge to the court’s jurisdiction (like any citizen, he has a right to be tried by his court of first instance), as well as all the appeals filed against the committal order, pre-trial detention, etc., have all been dismissed.

After more than 700 days in pre-trial detention, in October 2019 he was sentenced to 9 years in prison for the crime of sedition. During his pre-trial detention and after the sentence, several reports of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and Amnesty International —amongst others— have critiziced his imprisonment and ordered his release. Spain has ignored all these reports.

Jordi Sànchez being interviewed by Nació Digital / Adrià Costa

Before

On September 20, the Spanish Police arrived to the premises of several Catalan Governmental Institutions, searching them and detaining public civil servants and high rank officials. Thousands of citizens spontaneously gathered in front of the places where searches were taking place, in support of the Catalan Institutions and of the Referendum of Independence (that was to be held on October 1). The biggest concentration (up to 40,000 people) was in front of the Department of Economy and Finance. One of the many social, civic and political leaders that went there was Jordi Sànchez. Together with Jordi Cuixart (the leader of the cultural NGO Òmnium Cultural) – he tried to prevent any violent incidents from taking place and asked people to keep calm and to go back home before midnight. This was in order to let police and judicial officers to leave the premises as soon as they finished their jobs.

Having turned down the option to park inside the Ministry premises, Spanish police had parked their cars outside the building. The vehicles were left unlocked, unattended and with visible weapons inside. However, they did not accept the invitations made by the Catalan police to enable them to leave through a secure passage (as the court secretary did), but no significant incidents took place during the hours in which the search lasted.

MEDIAPRO’s “20-S” documentary on Jordi Sànchez’s pacific role during Catalan Referendum protests. (English subtitles)

Message from the president of the Catalan National Assembly after knowing he’s going to be imprisoned for political reasons. (English subtitles)

The outcome

After more than 700 days in pre-trial detention, in October 2019 he was sentenced to 9 years in prison for the crime of sedition. During his pre-trial detention and after the sentence, several reports of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and Amnesty International —amongst others— have critiziced his imprisonment and ordered his release. Spain has ignored all these reports.

Moreover,  Mr. Sànchez was democratically elected as a member of the Catalan Parliament on the Catalan regional elections of December 21, 2017 imposed by Spain’s direct rule. However, he was not allowed to exercise his political rights while being in pre-trial detention. After blocking Carles Puigdemont from becoming president, the Constitutional Court blocked Mr. Sànchez investiture too  (on two occasions), with the help of pro-Spanish parties. The court argued that freeing Mr. Sànchez from prison would have implied “a big risk of commiting a crime again”.

On the 21st March 2018, he filed a claim to the UN Human Rights Committee, where he asked for interim measures to be able to exercise his political rights. On the 23rd March, the Human Rights Committee admitted Mr. Sànchez’ case and accepted the interim measures, asking Spain to comply with them. Spain did not follow the UN Committee request and did not permit Mr. Sànchez to take part in the vote for the Presidency of Catalonia in the Catalan Parliament.

Still in pre-trial detention more than one year after his arrest, Spain’s Supreme Court vetoed the access of all appeals for protection of his constitutional rights filed by Mr. Sànchez to European justice by systematically accepting all of them, to be later shelved and unresolved. This has been denounced by a manifesto signed by Mr. Jordi Sànchez and Mr. Jordi Turull (the spokesperson of the Catalan Government dismissed by the Spanish State after the Declaration of Independence by the Catalan Parliament on 27 October 2017).

Both politicians started a hunger strike on 1st December 2018 in order to ‘raise awareness’ of unfair treatment by Spain and to denounce the attempts of Spanish courts to block their access to European justice. Their hunger strike ended on 20th December. Both Mr. Sànchez and Mr. Turull considered its aims reached as the Spanish Constitutional Court stopped its blockade to appeals for protection of constitutional rights eventually reaching European justice.

On 21st January 2019, PEN International denounced the excessive restrictions on the right to freedom of expression as a result of the disproportionate charges of rebellion and sedition filed against writers and civil society leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez. The pair have been held in pre-trial detention for over a year for having peacefully expressed their political views.

On the 29th May 2019, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention – overseen by the United Nations Human Rights Council – released an opinion on the pretrial detention of Catalan leaders Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart. They concluded it to have been arbitrary and calling on the Spanish government to “adopt the necessary measures to remedy the situation […] without delay”. They go on to suggest that “the appropriate remedy would be to immediately release” the three.

On October 14, 2019, the sentence was released and was convicted to 9 years in prison for the crime of sedition.

Following massive public demonstrations the days after his conviction, on November 19, Amnesty International stated that referendum leaders’ verdict is ‘against human rights international law’ and demanded its immediate release.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has found seven cases of Catalan leaders to be arbitrary, including Jordi Sànchez’s, and has urged Spain to release those who have been detained. As stated by International Trial Watch, FIDH and Euromed Rights , the trials were held with numerous irregularities and infringements on the right to a fair trial. Amnesty International, OMCT, UN Special Rapporteurs and Council of Europe have also expressed their concerns about the case of Jordi Sànchez and have urged Spanish authorities to realease him.

Spain has ignored all the reports and Mr. Sànchez is still in prison, awaiting to be able to make an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Wives of jailed Catalan activists say husbands were jailed as ‘scapegoats’. The Washington Post

Imprisonment of Catalan leaders ‘sends a very scary message,’ says Amnesty International

Violated rights

Spain is violating the principle that pretrial detention is a measure of last resort and it should, therefore, be applied only exceptionally.

Spain has neither respected the principle that prisoners should be in prisons close to their domiciles and families at least until the direct rule main responsible, the Partido Popular, has finally been ousted from power. Mr. Sanchez and the other prisoners were more than 500 kilometres far from home for more than eight months.

Based on good faith, state parties to any Human Rights Convention should feel bound to comply with their bodies’ recommendations, even if they are not binding. The Human Rights’ Committee will take into account the State’s answer.

Spain is violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other Conventions connected.

Several United Nations human rights bodies have warned Spain many times, like, for instance, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association or the High Commissioner of Human Rights in his speech on the 7th March 2018 before the Human Rights Council when he said “I remind the authorities (of Spain) that pre-trial detention should be considered a measure of last resort. I encourage resolution of this situation through political dialogue”.

 

Catalonia referendum: Lawbreakers or Political Prisoners? – BBC News

Lawyer Ben Emmerson anounces Mr. Cuixart’s application to the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention claiming that his imprisonment in Spain breaks international law (in English).

Demonstration against the imprisonment of Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart (21-10-2017)

Jody Williams, Noam Chomsky, Pep Guardiola, Angela Davis, Ben Emmerson, Bill Shipsey and Martín Caparrós demand Spain to release the nine Catalan prisioners, to solve this political conflict through dialogue and ask the Spanish institutions to stop their ideological repression.

References

Spanish court jails Catalan separatists Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart pending sedition trial. POLITICO (in English)

Article about Mr. Jordi Sanchez with statements made by Rafael Ribó, Catalan Ombudsman, thenational.scot (in English):

Exiled Puigdemont endorses jailed Sànchez as next Catalan president. POLITICO (in English)

Parliament speaker proposes Jordi Sànchez as presidential candidate. Catalan News (in English)

Jordi Sànchez, from political activist to presidential candidate. Catalan News (in English)

Another Catalan leadership hopeful bites the dust. POLITICO (in English)

Statement made by the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights on the 7th March 2018. (in English)

Jordi Sànchez considers taking Spanish judge’s decision to human rights court. Catalan News (in English)

Jailed Catalan separatist leaders file complaint with UN. POLITICO (in English)

The UN Human Rights Committee accepts Sanchez’s claim, elnacional.cat (in English):

Sànchez’s swearing-in postponed until Human Rights court rules. Catalan News (in English)

Judge’s reasons to deny permission to jailed leader ‘grotesque’. Catalan News (in English)

Catalan independence cause lands in UN’s headquarters. Catalan News (in English)

‘EU is not living up to what defenders of human rights expect of it,’ says MEP at UN. Catalan News (in English)

Amnesty International: Ongoing detention of Jordi Sanchez is “excessive and disproportionate” (in English)

Amnesty International statement to release political activists Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart  (in English)

Ex-Catalan leader on hunger strike moved to prison hospital. POLITICO (in English)

Activist Jordi Sànchez testifies in Spain’s Supreme Court: ‘All accusations are false’. Catalan News (in English)

Jailed Catalan MPs attend opening of Spanish parliament. POLITICO (in English)

Spain told by U.N. body to free jailed Catalan separatists. Reuters (In English)

Amnesty International sends another letter to the Public Prosecutor’s Office calling for Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart to be released from prison. Ara (in English)

Jailed leaders’ lawyer asks UN to look into Spain for discrediting report. Catalan News (in English)

Demands for UN to look into rights ‘infringements’ in Spain intensify. Catalan News (in English)

Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez sentenced to 9 years’ prison for sedition. CCMA (in English)

Jailed Catalan leader says verdict risks criminalizing all dissent. Reuters (in English)

Amnesty International calls on Spain to release two of the jailed Catalan leaders. Reuters (in English)

Documents

Official Sentence:
Spanish Supreme Court Judgement 459/2019 

International Trial Watch Report: International Observer’s reports of the Special Cause Num. 20907/2017 of the Spanish Supreme Court Against the Catalan Leaders.

PEN International statement on the imprisoned Catalan writers and Civil society leaders

Institutional declaration from Barcelona City Council rejecting the imprisonment of political activists Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart (in English)

REPORT: UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention calls on Spain to compensate officials and considers detentions violation of fundamental rights (in English)

UN: imprisonment of leaders ‘against Universal Declaration of Human Rights’. Catalan News (in English)

UN expert urges Spain not to pursue criminal charges of rebellion against political figures in Catalonia. OHCHR (in English)

Amnesty International Public Statement: Charges for sedition and pre-trial detention against Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez are excessive

Amnesty International: leading Catalan figures Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart should be freed (in English)

Amnesty International: A year after their detention in Spain, the Jordis should be released (in English)

REPORT: Situation of human rights defenders in Council of Europe member states (26-06-2019)


REPORT: FIDH and EuroMed Rights rapport d’observation sur le proces des politiques et associatifs Catalans a Madrid.

Amnesty International Statement after the sentence: Spain’s conviction for sedition of Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart threatens rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly (in English)

Amnesty International Report: Spain: Analysis of the Supreme Court’s rulings in the case of Catalan leaders (in English)

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