Updated in: 13 August 2020 - 14:28
TEHRAN (defapress)- Kusai Kedri, journalist and political commentator, says Madrid violates the Spanish Constitution by suppressing the protests in Catalonia, which he believes has often expressed its demands by means of peaceful demonstrations.
News ID: 76762
Publish Date: 12April 2019 - 11:20

Kusai Kedri: Spain Upholds Catalans’ Right to Protest as Fundamental Human RightSpeaking in an exclusive interview with FNA, Barcelona-based political commentator said Spain’s snap election is the blowback of Madrid’s policies against pro-independence Catalans, who in return joined Conservatives and voted down the national budget for 2019.

Kusai Kedri, DEA from Sorbonne Nouvelle, is a lecturer at the University of Barcelona, Catalonia. Also, he is a senior broadcast journalist working on a freelance basis for different news networks.

Below is the full text of the interview:

Q: There seems to be no end to the protests in Catalonia. Why do Catalans protest?

A: Like any Western democracy, Spain upholds the right to protest as a fundamental human right. The Spanish Constitution of 1978 guarantees the right to peaceful demonstration under article 21. Throughout its troubled history with Spain, Catalonia has often expressed its political, economic, and cultural aspirations and demands by means of social protests.

However, the general strikes staged by pro-independence trade unions with the support of the regional government drew strong criticism in the Spanish mainstream media and among unionist forces which denounced the violent clashes that permeated the protests across the region and they blamed the militant branch of the Catalan pro-independence movement for the disturbance. Besides, the failure of the strikes to block the region and draw large numbers out onto the streets questioned the effectiveness of systematic protesting to force a change in attitude in Madrid.

 Those who oppose the strike denounce a deliberate move by pro-independence forces to impose their political views and blame the central government for not taking appropriate action to forbid what they consider as a "political strike" rather than an "industrial action". They accuse militant CDRs of damaging public property and putting public safety at risk.

Q: What is the destiny of the 12 Catalan leaders imprisoned on the grave charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds?

A: Catalonians are divided. The pro-independence camp believes that the right to vote on leaving or staying with Spain is an inherent right upheld by international law and backed by a majority of people in the Spanish northeastern region. They regard the charges against their leaders as baseless, saying the trial is politically motivated while those who oppose Catalonia's split from Spain - and who are often referred to as Unionists or Constitutionalists - argue that the 2017 referendum was in breach of Spain's Constitution and threatened to break up the unity and territorial integrity of the Kingdom. They view the declaration of independence of October 27 as no less than a coup d'état.

The trial of the 12 pro-independence leaders is likely to further entrench Catalonia's unionists and separatists in a bitter spat whose underpinnings are shaped by decades of misunderstanding and resentment on both sides of the divide. Spain's Supreme Court, which upheld its competence in trying the case at the expense of Catalonia's high court, will eventually decide between the two blocs. It will have to decide whether the allegations of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds were constitutive of crimes against the country's laws. The verdict which is expected in June or July, will be an unprecedented case in Spanish jurisprudence and will have deep political, and social ramifications. The trial is unlikely to be laid to rest soon because the defense team is planning to take to the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (ECHR).

Q: How do you view the current socialist administration’s approach to Catalonia independence?

A: When the socialists came to power in June 2018 thanks to the support of Catalan pro-independence parties, they undertook a series of measures aimed at deflating the crisis in Catalonia, particularly after seven years of conservative rule marked by intransigence vis-a-vis the pro-independence movement. Pedro Sanchez opted for what described as a “softer approach” in Catalonia. He relaunched bilateral commissions between central and regional governments which were inactive since 2011, integrated Catalonia's police (Mossos d'Esquadra) into Spain's intelligence agency (CITCO), and increased the region's spending budget. In a symbolic gesture, he acceded to a request from the separatists to relocate 9 jailed leaders awaiting trial to regional prisons and even considered amnesty if they were to be sentenced by Spain's courts for their alleged role in the 2017 referendum.

But the measures were not enough to secure the backing of Catalonia's separatists in the Spanish Congress on the eve of a vote on the socialists' national budget for 2019. They wanted Sanchez to agree to a new referendum on independence in the region and demanded that the charges against their leaders in jail and in exile be dropped. Talks hit a brick wall and the separatists joined the Spanish conservatives to vote down the budget. Pedro Sanchez was forced to call a snap election.

The socialist pre-campaign slogan for Catalonia is "dialogue within the framework of the law". The party of Pedro Sanchez advocates a reform of Catalonia's Statute of Autonomy of 2006 which granted the region stronger autonomy but was later rewritten by Spain's Constitutional Court sparking a stiff opposition from pro-independence parties that culminated in the 2017 referendum.

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