Case 06

Jordi Cuixart, pacifist leader accused of violent rebellion

Pacifist leader Jordi Cuixart, president of the main Catalan cultural association, is in prison accused of rebellion

“They want for us to give up, that’s why they put us in prison. But this has caused the opposite effect: people are more confident than ever about the legitimacy of civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance as the keys to transform the society and to exercise the right to self-determination. We need all the possible strength to continue explaining to the world that we are not facing a trial but an unprecedented farce: “They will never imprison our ideas”. 

(Written by Jordi Cuixart, from prison, to the members of Òmnium Cultural, on the 400th day of his imprisonment).

Jordi Cuixart’s testimony at the Supreme Court on February 26, 2019 (English subtitles)

Description

Jordi Cuixart (1975) is a businessman  and the president of Òmnium Cultural since 2015. On 20th September 2017, together with the president of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) Jordi Sànchez, they took the lead of a spontaneous popular mobilization located in front of the headquarters of the Catalan Ministry of Economy. People were there to express their objection to the searches and arrests that Spanish police were conducting among high-ranking officers of the Catalan administration. Such action was part of the Spanish government’s operation to prevent the celebration of the self-determination referendum scheduled for 1st October 2017, as announced by the Catalan Government.

There were many media sources that managed to film Jordi Cuixart’s role in that demonstration, which consisted of him attempting to ensure that it remained a non-violent gathering. At 11pm he and Jordi Sànchez called the demonstration off. To do so, they climbed onto a police vehicle, so as to ensure that those who were further away from them could hear their voices.

Two days after, the State prosecutor of the Spanish National Court (special court heir to the Francoist “Tribunal de Orden Público”) issued an indictment about the events of September 20th, describing them as an example of a “sedition offence”. The indictment also states that Jordi Cuixart was the one who instructed the people to mobilise against the officials who were trying to prevent the self-determination referendum in Catalonia.

On 16th October 2017, they were called to testify at the Spanish National Court before Judge Carmen Lamela, who ordered them to be sent to prison.

From that moment on, Mr. Cuixart’s lawyers appealed for his release many times, but all of them have been denied. He remains in unwarranted pre-trial detention and is still waiting for a sentence. As of now, he has been in prison for nearly 700 days.

One month later, on 16th November, the Supreme Court took the case up and Judge Pablo Llarena, in a polemical allocation, became its examining magistrate. He widened the subject of the cause to any activity carried out by Catalan political and social leaders in support of Catalan independence, so that it could be considered as a “general cause”. Once completed, the preliminary investigation – conducted by both a State prosecutor and private prosecutor – qualified the facts as a “rebellion offence”. However, the role of the private prosecutor was performed by the extreme right-wing party VOX and this was reflected in the different sentences sought by the two prosecutors. The State prosecutor asked for 17 years of imprisonment, while the private prosecutor asked for 74 years. Spain’s legal counsel posed an accusation for sedition involving 8 years of imprisonment.

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

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

Before

Jordi Cuixart was elected president of Òmnium Cultural (OC) in December 2015. This social entity was created in 1961, under Francoist dictatorship, to defend the Catalan language, culture, and nation, which were persecuted under Franco’s regime. This presidency was only another step in Jordi Cuixart’s path. He was already a member of Amnesty International and had been a rebel consciousness objector to compulsory military service. He has been a part of OC’s board since March 2010.

In July 2010, in response to the Statute’s impeachment by the Spanish High Court, Òmnium Cultural organized a demonstration under the heading “We are a Nation: We Decide”. This demonstration assembled more than a million people and initiated a series of demonstrations. Such demonstrations are as large as they are peaceful and are celebrated every year on 11 September, Catalonia’s National Day. See 2010 Catalan autonomy protest.

With Jordi Cuixart as president, Òmnium Cultural has launched campaigns such as “Shared Battles”, which provides value to the historical claims of socially disadvantaged groups, and “Tomorrow it could be you” warning about the threat to citizens’ fundamental rights in Spain. This last campaign counts on the support of organizations and NGO’s defending civil rights: Fundació per la Pau, Associació Irídia, Centre per la Defensa dels Drets Humans, Novact, Institut Internacional per l’Acció no Violenta and Institut de Drets Humans de Catalunya.

Many media outlets recorded Jordi Cuixart’s performance on 20 September. Those recordings appear in the documentary called “20-S”, intended to be presented by Mr. Cuixart’s defence as evidence of his pacifist attitude during the events of 20 September. Mr. Cuixart urged the demonstration’s assistants to ensure that the protest remained peaceful, and to do so without obstructing the agents who were inquiring into the Catalan Ministry of Economics. 

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).

The outcome

Judge Llarena, the investigating magistrate, decided to group together all those political and social actions occurring in Catalonia that displayed the aim of achieving independence from Spain. Such actions were used as evidence of rebellion, sedition and funds’ embezzlement offences in one general cause. The political and social leaders and even the Catalan police forces’ leaders – who have played an important role in the Catalan process -were also included in that case investigated by the Spanish National Court. 

Following this, Jordi Cuixart’s, who was arrested on 16 October accused of a sedition offence, has been accused of a rebellion offence shared with the Catalan Government and Parliament members in office during the Referendum and the vote about independence in the Catalan Parliament, on 27 October, while Jordi Cuixart was in prison.

As renowned pacifist, he had refused to perform military service and as Òmnium’s president he has always maintained and promoted the non-violent nature of the Catalan protests. Therefore, the accusing parts have built a case based on a certain interpretation of Mr. Cuixart’s statements and those of the other persons accused in regards to the concept of “violence”. The prosecutor wrote: 

“Our law-maker, when using the adverb that categorizes the action (violently) in the description of the offence type, avoids including to the description of the facts the substantive suggested. Acts violently the one who acts in a violent way, which does not show a content typified by law that fully coincides with acting violently”. This type of phrasing, key for the particulars of the rebellion offence, was discredited by the law specialists such as Professor Diego López Garrido, who was once a rapporteur of the Criminal Procedure Code’s writing. 

On 1 February 2018, Mr. Cuixart, along with Jordi Sànchez and Oriol Junqueras, filed a complaint with the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, claiming that their imprisonment in Spain breaks international law. After a long deliberation, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention published a report arguing that their detention and imprisonment are violations of fundamental rights – mainly their freedom of speech – and all three should be freed and paid compensation. Spain filed a complaint against this group and still holds Cuixart and the rest of the politicians jailed without bail.

Amnesty International also denounced Mr. Cuixart’s vulneration of rights repeatedly. On 16 October 2018, a year after his detention, they stated: “There is no justification for keeping Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart in pre-trial detention and we reiterate our call for their immediate release. Amnesty International believes their continued detention constitutes a disproportionate restriction on their rights to free speech and peaceful assembly”. Once the trial had ended, on 18 June 2019, they made another statement: “according to international human rights standards, the longer defendants are held on remand, the greater the need to undertake a rigorous investigation to determine whether it is still necessary and proportionate”. This is because the authorities’ response “must not be an excessive and disproportionate restriction of human rights, such as the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly”.

 

Violated laws

Jordi Cuixart, as well as other Catalan pro-independence leaders, is accused and imprisoned for defending the Catalan people’s right to self-determination and for fostering the exercise of fundamental rights such as the one to freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate in favour of the ideas he defends. Amnesty International, has demanded his immediate release (15-10-2018). This violation of rights has been reported before the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and more recently it has motivated an open letter from the World Organisation Against Torture (22-11-2018).

The Article 96 of the Spanish Constitution equally validates the international treaties signed by Spain; among which are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Both covenants contain, in their first article, the people’s right to self-determination. And, as a matter of fact, Jordi Cuixart and the other Catalan pro-independence leaders have been imprisoned for defending its exercise. This assessment of the facts has been done by the independent UN rapporteur Alfredo de Zayas.

Jordi Cuixart’s defence has lodged many appeals against his unconditional imprisonment, against being imprisoned in a prison more than 500km far from his home until the end of the examination process, against the appointment of the members of the court who will judge him, and against all the difficulties his defence has faced to gain access to the whole content of the preliminary investigation and to present its own evidences.

 

To be noted that the amendment of the Spanish Penal Code, in force since 2005, decriminalized holding a consultation or a referendum called by an organization that doesn’t have jurisdictional capacity to do it.

References

Spanish prosecutor files sedition lawsuit against protesters. Catalan News (in English)

Catalan police chief and pro-independence civil society leaders called to testify in sedition case. Catalan News (in English)

Catalan police chief and pro-independence civil society organizations leaders in court accused of sedition. Catalan News (in English)

Spain High Court jails two Catalan separatist leaders pending investigation. Reuters (in English)

Spanish court jails Catalan separatists pending sedition trial (POLITICO; in English)

Lawyers denounce charges against pro-independence organization leaders. Catalan News (in English)

Catalonia: detention of secessionist leaders sparks large protests. The Guardian (in English)

MEPs protest incarceration of civil society leaders in front of European Parliament. Catalan News (in English)

Supreme Court takes over the case against pro-independence leaders. Catalan News (in English)

Judge keeps four pro-independence leaders in prison. Catalan News (in English)

Imprisonment of Catalan leaders ‘unique situation in Europe,’ says former ad hoc judge for Human Rights court. Catalan News (in English)

Spain’s Guardia Civil enters HQs of pro-independence organizations. Catalan News (in English)

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

Pre-trial detention is measure of last resort, says UN Human Rights Commission. Catalan News (in English)

Jailed pro-independence activist requests transfer to Catalan prison. Catalan News (in English)

Jailed activist re-elected as president of major pro-independence group. Catalan News (in English)

Jailed activist denounces ‘violation of human rights’. Catalan News (in English)

‘Repression cannot stop struggle for democracy and freedom,’ says jailed activist. Catalan News (in English)

Spanish judiciary rejects releasing jailed leaders again. Catalan News (in English)

MEPs wear yellow to demand release of Catalan leaders from jail. Catalan News (in English)

Amnesty calls for ‘immediate release’ of jailed leaders after year of detention. Catalan News (in English)

Amnesty International to ‘monitor’ trial of jailed leaders to assess whether it is ‘fair’. Catalan News (in English)

Cuixart denounces ‘suspension of rights’ to ‘protect’ Spanish unity in statement of defense. Catalan News (in English)

Activist Cuixart testifies in Catalan Trial. Catalan News (in English)

Activist Cuixart in court: ‘The right to vote in Catalonia is achieved by voting’. Catalan News (in English)

Court ruling leaves activist leaders free to make Strasbourg appeal. Catalan News (in English)

Cuixart’s lawyer vows to take case to Human Rights court if activist is found guilty. Catalan News (in English)

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

UN calls for release of three jailed pro-independence leaders. Catalan News (in English)

Jailed Catalan activist asks for release following UN’s call on Spain. Catalan News (in English)

Activist Cuixart’s lawyer cites international law to defend ‘peaceful resistance’. Catalan News (in English)

Spanish government files complaint over UN report on jailed Catalan politicians (El País; 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)

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