Picture by Òmnium Cultural

On October 16, 2017, two pro-independence leaders arrived at the Soto del Real prison in Madrid around 11pm. One year later, they are still hold in pre-trial prison. Jordi Sànchez was the president of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), a big pro-independence civic organisation. Jordi Cuixart was and still is the president of Catalonia’s biggest cultural organisation, Òmnium Cultural, with 127.000 members.

Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart were initially arrested and held without bail on charges of sedition. Afterwards, their case was combined with the lawsuit against the organisers of last year’s independence referendum and they were charged with rebellion. They never used violence or weapons, but they remain behind bars all the same.

The initial accusation against Sànchez and Cuixart was for having “promoted” the spontaneous demonstration in front of the headquarters of the Ministry of Economy of Catalonia during the registry of the building that the Spanish paramilitary Guardia Civil carried out on September 20, 2017, neglecting the right to protest and their role as pacifiers during the whole day. One of the most iconic images was when they stood on a damaged police car and called on the protesters to disperse.

20-S documentary

Their case and their peaceful attitude is described in the following documentary with English subtitles:

Both Sànchez and Cuixart have said in interviews that they don’t regret their actions on September 20 and assure they would again do the same.

Amnesty calls for immediate release

Yesterday, Amnesty International called for their “immediate release”. The Deputy Director for Europe, Fotis Fillippou, said “there is no justification for keeping the two leaders in pre-trial jail”. According to Amnesty, the charges against the two men are “unfounded and must be dropped”.

While Amnesty argues that if it can be shown that they called on demonstrators to prevent police from carrying out a “lawful operation” this could constitute a prosecutable “public order offence”,  the NGO rejects the charge that they committed “serious crimes, such as rebellion or sedition”.

“Amnesty International believes their continued detention constitutes a disproportionate restriction of their rights to free speech and peaceful assembly” added Fillippou.