Today marks the one-year anniversary of the controversial Spanish civil guard police raids on the Catalan government offices and subsequent civil society protests which were sparked as a reaction to them. The date is important because it is the basis for which two respected Catalan civil society leaders, Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, have been languishing in pre-trial detention since October 16th, 2017, charged with rebellion and sedition.
The charges against both men are absurd by any measure. Throughout their careers as activists and organizers, both have made civil, respectful protest their mantra. Since 2012, massive annual national day protests of a million people in Catalonia, coordinated by their respective organizations, have been impeccably peaceful and civic, taking place without incident or violence of any kind.
Contrary to the narrative — led by much of the Spanish media — of the two leaders whipping up crowds and inciting them to impede judicial investigations, video evidence clearly shows both men taking charge to calm a spontaneous protest, dedicating hours to assuring that authorities could finish their work. Despite the fact that investigators were able to complete their work as instructed, and that protests remained peaceful throughout the day, judicial authorities have maintained the charges against both, facing 15 to 30 years in prison should they be convicted.
International organizations such as Amnesty International and PEN International have condemned their incarceration and call for their release, as have the Catalan Ombudsman’s office and a group of a thousand lawyers and legal scholars.
The Catalonia America Council adds its name to that list, calling for their immediate release.
Mr. Sanchez and Mr. Cuixart are men of peace and dialogue. They are exactly the kind of people needed to help resolve the Catalan quest for the right to decide its political future and mend relations with Spain. Their place is out in the public square debating these issues for the greater good, not in jail.