‘Gag’ law against a discussion about Catalan with a police officer

Catalan MonitorAra, News Roundup

The Plataforma per la Llengua (Platform for the Language, an entity defending the linguistic rights of Catalan speakers), denounces the case of a university professor who could be fined with 601 euros after almost losing a plane.

Insult was added to injury: stereotype as it may be, reality is stubborn and it looks like the saying could be almost literally applied to the case of Xavier Casanovas, professor at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya/BarcelonaTech. As the Plataforma per la Llengua, which is providing him with juridical assistance, has denounced, about half year ago he had an incident with the Spanish National Police because he spoke in Catalan to an agent in the Barcelona airport and not only he did not have to endure the moment but rather he saw as his case could not be tried and now he has received the notification for a possible 601€ fine because the police officer in question has denounced him the new Citizen Security Law, known as the “Gag law”.

El Prat Airport, Source: Ara

Everything started in September, when Casanovas was going through passport control in the airport and spoke in Catalan to the National Police officer, whose answer was about his “lack of respect” and “little love for one’s country”, i.e. for Spain. However, the professor went through control and proceeded to the boarding queue to get onto his flight, as explained by the Plataforma.

In that moment, problems started again. The agent, together with a second officer came for him, asked for his passport and escorted him to an information point where they took his personal data. When, at the moment of boarding, he had not been returned his document, Casanovas asked for the reasons for the treatment and they answer, according to his own words, that he was accused of “bad manners” and assured him that, according to the Constitution, he had the obligation to speak in Spanish. As well, even though the plane was about to take off, the agents remembered that they also needed the data from the ID card and warned him that if he should continue speaking in Catalan, they would have to call for an interpreter and that maybe he would lose the plane.

When Casanovas asked the police officers to identify themselves, it turned out that the one that had begun the story could not do so because, as he said, the number did not fit on his shirt. The other one said he had a number difficult to read “to prevent ‘stupid’ denounces”. Finally, the officers allowed Casanovas to go, but they warned him that they knew “where he lives”.

After the facts, Casanovas presented a denounce before the Catalan police for the received treatment, but the judge had to file the case because the involved agents could not be identified.

This month of march, over six months afterwards, the professor has received a legal notification according to which a process has been opened against him “related to the normative of citizen security protection”, the aforementioned “Gag law”. According to the National Police, Casanovas would have committed a severe infraction by “ignoring the orders given by the officers of the law, thus hindering their labour and the normal passenger traffic”, which would merit a 601€ fine, the minimum for a severe sanction.

Case to be re-tried

The Plataforma per la Llengua has offered the affected its support and, as well as the Catalunya Foundation, it is offering him legal counselling to ask for a re-trial because of this “grave linguistic discrimination suffered from the Spanish administrations”. Casanovas then will ask for the case to be re-opened now that, thanks to the accusation by the police officers, it is now possible to know their identity.


Source: Ara, 24th of March 2017.