Àngels Gregori, Jennifer Clement and Carles Torner

PEN International has denounced the “excessive restrictions on the right to freedom of expression as the result of the disproportionate charges of rebellion and sedition filed against writers and civil society leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez” who have been incarcerated, according to the group, for “having peacefully expressed their political views.”

In a multilingual statement released on Monday, the group promoting literature and freedom of expression cites one of the principles of its Founding Charter from 1922, which defends “the free circulation of ideas within each country” and according to which members are to “refuse any form of suppression of freedom of expression in the country or community to which they belong, and oppose arbitrary censorship in time of peace.”

The statement has been promoted by PEN Catalan and supported by a dozen individual signatories and thirteen of the PEN chapters including French PEN, PEN Canada, Scottish PEN, PEN International and more.  The statement was released in English, Catalan, Spanish and French.

Sànchez and Cuixart

The association reiterates its “commitment to defending the right to freedom of expression” and further calls on Spanish authorities to “drop the charges against Sànchez and Cuixart and to release them immediately” arguing that “beyond having expressed their ideas peacefully, they have also ensured […] the free circulation of the ideas of writers in Catalonia.”

PEN goes on to write about the “persecution” of Catalans as of late “in a way not seen since the Franco dictatorship” for reason of “different artistic expressions clearly attacking the right to freedom of expression and its different forms of artistic expression.” The association  wrote that it has been “fighting against threats and aggression to language and literature for 95 years, taking action in support of the persecuted, exiled and refugee writers throughout the world.”

Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, having headed the pro-independence civil society organizations Òmnium Cultural and the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) respectively (Sànchez since stepped down from his post), have been in pre-trial prison since October 17. They are being charged with rebellion, with the prosecutor requesting 17 years for them each. Their trial is set to start in the coming weeks, with a start date to be announced in the coming days.