Raul Romeva, left, with Catalonia’s then president Artur Mas in 2015. Photograph: Jorge Guerrero/AFP/Getty Images
Click for a full size image
Spain politicising courts to block referendum, says Catalan minister
Raul Romeva says there is ‘really worrying’ lack of separation of powers between politicians and judiciary
The Spanish judiciary is being systematically politicised in an attempt to suppress the Catalan government’s plan to hold a binding referendum next year on independence, the Catalan foreign minister, Raül Romeva, has said.
On Wednesday Spain’s constitutional court suspended two resolutions passed by the Catalan parliament in October that were intended to pave the way for a vote on independence in September 2017.
The pro-sovereignty speaker of the Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell, is due to appear before Catalonia’s supreme court on Friday to answer charges that she exceeded her authority by authorising a debate on the roadmap for independence in the chamber last July.
In a blunt ruling, the court told Forcadell and the Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, that they had a duty to “stop or paralyse” any attempts to circumvent the suspension or face the consequences, “including at a penal level”.
Speaking to the Guardian, Romeva said: “The judicial system is being politicised more and more day by day.” He said the perversion of the Spanish constitution should concern all supporters of free speech and constitutional law throughout Europe.
“[Forcadell] is being prosecuted simply for permitting a legislature to have a debate. All Forcadell has done is to permit a debate that the majority of 72 MPs in the Catalan parliament asked her to do.”
Romeva said the constitutional court was not a genuine judicial body since its judges were nominated by political parties, and its president was a former member of Spain’s ruling People’s party.
“Put together, it shows there is a really worrying lack of separation of powers between the politicians and the judiciary in Spain,” he said. “The demand for independence is political, so let us talk about this politically, not judicially. Judicialising politics is not the answer, and will not produce a solution. It will only make the conflict worse and worse.”
Romeva vowed that Catalans would not be deprived of their vote, saying the referendum would go ahead with or without the approval of the government in Madrid.
“The choice is referendum or referendum. Obviously we would prefer the vote to take place with the co-operation of the Spanish government, as happened with Scottish independence, but if that is not possible the referendum will happen and will be binding on the Catalan people,” he said.
“If the Spanish government agreed, we could negotiate the question, the date, the franchise and the quorum. An agreement is preferable because issues such as what to do about Spanish debt could be negotiated.”
He added: “If that is not possible, the Catalan government has the clear mandate from the elections in September 2015 to hold the referendum anyway. If necessary we will make the law to make it legal and binding. We are completely committed to this referendum being fair, with all options discussed fairly by international standards. One way or other we are going to have this vote.”
According to a poll in November, the pro-independence movement would narrowly lose a referendum, with 45.1% of Catalans opposing the movement and 44.9% supporting it. The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has consistently opposed any move to bring about Catalan independence, insisting Spain’s unity is not up for discussion.
“Polls, we know, are not a crystal ball,” Romeva said. “We need to put it to the people. They want it settled and they are tired of the debate.”
In Britain, an all-party motion in the Commons is gathering support from MPs including the Green party co-leader Caroline Lucas condemning the prosecution of Forcadell.
source: The Guardian