The European Council openly questions freedom of expression in Spain after a new report on the sentencing of Catalan political leaders in 2017. This despite the fact they will receive a short-term pardon from the Spanish prime minister.
Not only that, the report supports pardons. Latvian socialist Boris Cilevics wrote the report entitled ‘Should politicians be prosecuted for statements they make while carrying out their mandate?’ The report recognises Spain has a vibrant democracy, with a culture of free and open debate. However, the report also states Catalan politicians have been convicted of sedition and other acts, such as expressing their separatist views while exercising their political mandate.
Spain should change the law regarding freedom of expression
The Council reports it respects the independence of Spanish courts. However, the government is advised to reform the code defining crimes such as rebellion and sedition. The author claims these are outdated. This so the actions of politicians from now on fall outside the constitution.
The author believes political problems should be solved by political means. The report also supports pardons and release of political leaders. In addition, the possibilities of waiving extradition proceedings against politicians living abroad, such as Carles Puigdemont, should be explored.
European Council calls for open dialogue with Catalan politicians
The government should not expect the convicted leaders to change their political positions in exchange for a more favourable prison regime or shorter sentences, the report said. The Council advocates an open dialogue with all political forces in Catalonia for a stronger democracy in Spain.
Despite the fact the report cannot force a change in law, it is causing a lot of commotion within the political and legal spectrum. Opposition parties and associations of judges request the Spanish government to reject the report in its entirety.
Spain rejects report
On Monday morning, the Spanish newspaper El País reported the Spanish government has indeed done this. Spanish representatives in the European Council have now managed to tone down some expletives towards Spanish democracy. The Spanish government also expects some recommendations, such as withdrawing Puigdemont’s extradition request, to be considered inadmissible.
According to the Spanish Vice-President of the Council, these recommendations violate the principle of the separation of powers and the independence of courts, as only judges can withdraw extradition requests. The content of the report will be voted on within the European Council on Monday afternoon.