The arrest of nine Catalan pro-independence activists being accused of ‘terrorism’ has provoked outrage among the parties in favour of a self-determination referendum.
The Catalan president, Quim Torra, was among the first to react on Twitter. ‘Repression continues to be the only response from Spain. They are trying to construct a violent narrative again in the run-up to the verdict [of the jailed leaders’ trial]. They won’t succeed. The independence movement is and will always be peaceful,’ he wrote.
The mainstream pro-independence political forces with MPs in the Spanish Congress in Madrid, the Esquerra Republicana (ERC) party and Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) urged Spain’s home affairs ministry to give an explanation before the lower chamber.
JxCat’s spokeswoman, Laura Borràs, called it an ‘opaque and criminalising operation against the independence movement.’
‘They firstly arrest, and then investigate? We want an explanation,’ she added on Twitter.
‘[We] live in a country where people are arrested in the early hours in order to look for evidence against them. I mention this because in democracy it works the other way round,’ said ERC’s leader in Madrid, Gabriel Rufián.
According to Rufián, some media outlets are trying to make the public think that ‘those with weapons are voters and not those who sell them to Saudi satraps.’
The far-left CUP party and CDR groups (Committees in Defence of the Republic) have asked citizens to join protests to condemn the arrests.
CUP former MP Eulàlia Reguant said that it is no coincidence that the operation comes just a few days before a potential guilty verdict to the jailed pro-independence leaders is out, which might prompt large-scale protests.
‘They look to terrify people and make people stay at home due to the criminalisation of protest.’
CDR local groups have already called rallies on Monday, arguing that Catalan citizens’ ‘fundamental rights are at stake.’
Meanwhile, the Catalunya en Comú party, in favour of a referendum but not explicitly of independence, also rejected the operation.
Their MP in Madrid Jaume Asens said that Spain’s police are ‘banalizing terrorism’.
He added that these kind of moves create ‘tension and social alarm for no reason.’
‘We are concerned because we know how these operations with big publicity and social alarm usually end up: they fizzle out.’
Asens recalled the cases of two other activists accused of terrorism in 2018 – one of them, Adrià Carrasco, went into exile, and the other one, Tamara Carrasco, was held in her town before the charges were dropped for both.
‘Violent and divisive agenda’
Meanwhile, Spanish unionist parties have targeted the pro-independence Catalan government after the arrest of the nine activists accused of terrorism, rebellion, and possession of explosives. Some politicians seemed to have already taken for granted that the allegations have been confirmed.
Shortly after the operation got underway, the People’s Party (PP) leader in Spain, Pablo Casado, said that the independence camp has a ‘violent and divisive agenda’ and said they won’t give in facing this alleged threat.
For him, Spain’s police ‘has probably prevented a terrorist act with explosives.’
‘Spain’s democracy and rule of law are much stronger than those who try to defy them,’ he added.
The Socialists (PSC) in Catalonia took a softer stance but demanded ‘responsibility’ of the Catalan government.
For Socialist senior MP Salvador Illa, ‘it is normal that a moment of bewilderment leads to the radicalisation of some groups.’
For this reason, he encouraged politicians to ‘contribute to defusing tensions and not promoting them.’
He also referred to comments by Catalan president Quim Torra pushing the public to protest. ‘You are right to push us,’ Torra said in October 2018.
‘It is not the moment to encourage people to push,’ said Socialists’ Illa.
The leader of the Ciudadanos (Cs) party in Catalonia, Lorena Roldán, also referred to Torra’s remarks last year: ‘Now we know what Torra’s ‘push’ comments stood for… What did he mean? Push the explosives’ detonator?’
For her, Torra has been acting with a ‘tremendous irresponsibility’ – and she also targeted Spain’s acting prime minister, Socialist Pedro Sánchez.
‘What tragedy needs to happen so that Mr Sánchez admits that Mr Torra is a public danger?’