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Free the Catalan political prisoners - MEPs

11 September, 2018 - by Martina Anderson MEP

Sinn Féin’s team of MEPs have sent solidarity greetings to the Catalan people today as they mark the annual Diada, Catalonia’s National Day.

Speaking from Strasbourg, the four MEPs - Martina Anderson, Liadh Ni Riada, Matt Carthy and Lynn Boylan - issued a joint statement, saying: “All of us in Sinn Féin want to send our warmest solidarity greetings to our friends in Catalonia today on their National Day, as more than a million people are due to march in Barcelona.

“Today is a day of celebration for Catalans, but it is also a day of protest. Massive marches in favour of the Catalan right to self-determination have taken place on this day each year since 2012. Last year more than a million Catalans demonstrated on September 11 in support of the right to vote on their future in the referendum on independence scheduled for October 1.

“Since the last Diada, we have seen the successful organisation of the referendum on independence, and we have seen the brutal violence used by the Spanish security forces against people for voting. We have seen the declaration of the Catalan Republic on October 27, and the suspension and then restoration of Catalan government. We have seen the imprisonment and exile of Catalonia’s elected government representatives, and increased repression against the human right to freedom of speech and expression used against citizens across the Spanish state.

“Today is no ordinary today. A record number of people will march today under the banner, ‘Let’s make the Catalan Republic’. The Catalan people are demanding freedom for their exiles and for the nine political prisoners who are being held in pre-trial detention and face up to 30 years in jail on charges of sedition and rebellion. They are demanding that their right to self-determination is fufilled.

“The leaders of the civil society organisations that organise the annual Diada demonstration – the ANC and Òmnium Cultural - have been in jail in pre-trial detention for almost a year for organising peaceful demonstrations in favour of the right to vote. The seven political and government representatives have been jailed for their role in organising the referendum. There is no other term we can use to describe these men and women other than political prisoners. We visited them in jail last week.

“We note with disappointment that the persecution of Catalan activists, political representatives and artists has continued despite the change of government in Spain. We urge the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sànchez to ensure the release of the political prisoners immediately, a move that should be followed by comprehensive dialogue between the Spanish and Catalan governments.

“The violence and repression we have seen unleashed against the Catalan people over the past year is absolutely unacceptable. The silence of the EU leaders, and of our own government, in the face of such violence and attacks on basic human rights, is equally unacceptable. In the coming weeks and months we need to see some leadership – finally – from An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

“Today’s demonstration and the upcoming anniversary of the October 1 referendum will be a display of determination by those who support self-determination for Catalonia. Sinn Féin want to offer our support and solidarity to all those fighting for this right.”

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