Photo: Some of the political prisoners (Credit: Omnium Cultural)
By: Núria Orriols & Marc Torro
Date: 1st December, 2018
December 1st, 1973 and December 1st, 2018. Two dates with 45 years between them, but united by the same protest action: a hunger strike. At the end of the Franco regime, Lluís Maria Xirinacs, in custody on remand, issued a letter explaining that he began a hunger strike to demand the release of those being persecuted by the regime. Yesterday, the deputies of JxCat Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Turull, also in jail on remand, began a hunger strike to denounce the “blockade” being put forth by the Constitutional Court (TC) which prevents them from accessing the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The decision received the unanimous support of the pro-sovereignty camp, while the Moncloa Palace said that, regardless of the actions taken by the prisoners, they all will have a “fair” trial.
Early in the morning, after meditating on the decision for a number of days, the two prisoners informed the Lledoners prison authorities that they were beginning this protest action. At 11am their lawyer, Jordi Pina, and Dr. Jaume Padrós, president of the Barcelona Medical Association and the personal doctor for the two prisoners, issued a statement in which they explained the reasoning. Apart from saying that the case against those involved in 1-O has been a “violation of the presumption of innocence, freedom, political rights and a judicial process with guarantees,” they directed the complaint against the Spanish Constitutional Tribunal: they accused it of “imposing a blockade to accessing European justice”, stating that thus far, “100% of their petitions to the tribunal have been ignored” (a total of eight) and remain unresolved. “We do not ask that the TC treat them with special favour. But we do not accept any discrimination or unwarranted procrastination”, the statement said. They also wrote that the hunger strike is not “against anyone”, but rather “to stir up consciences”. Sources in the TC, however, responded quickly yesterday to argue that they are within their set limits for response times, and that, in addition, they will respond to the appeals at the same time, since they are all to do with the same subject, said Mariona Ferrer i Fornells.
The Spanish government did not have much of any significance to say. Pedro Sánchez declared from Buenos Aires, at the G20 meeting, that the hunger strike “was not good news” and that the reasons Sànchez and Turull set out for taking the action “are not true, because they will have a fair trial, since the judiciary is independent”. A statement from the Moncloa palace went on to say “like all citizens, they are subject to the law and protected by law”.
On the protest action taken by the two deputies of JxCat, sources close to the prisoners explained that the idea of a hunger strike had been working its way into their dialogue for weeks and that Sanchez had already studied the idea before entering prison. Dr. Padrós, in compliance with the deontological code, explained that he had made sure that the decision they took was done so freely and without elements of “coercion”. Regarding the possibility of joining other political prisoners, Pina refused to be drawn. Pro-sovereignty sources do not rule it out, although Padrós warned that the hunger strike might increase the risk that a prisoner transfer to Madrid might take place, for the trial.
The decision has flagged up gaps at Lledoners prison between JxCat and ERC parties, according to sources who know about the situation, since there have been different points of view among the prisoners from different parties. Finally, however, they agreed that each one would undertake the protests that he or she considered opportune, to respond to the judicial situation put forward by the Spanish State. On Friday night, in fact, Omnium Cultural distributed the first image of the seven prisoners in Lledoners to convey “unity”, and said that they all committed to “respect their personal choices.” Cuixart, Rull, Forn and Bassa exemplified this unity yesterday with tweets of support for Sànchez and Turull. The Government, the pro-sovereignty organisations, and members of all the pro-independence parties and even Podemos party showed solidarity with the hunger strike, whose manifesto, posted on a web page, had already achieved more than 70,000 sign-ups by the end of the day [And stands at 205,000 on December 12th].
“The penal code is being applied as vengefully, establishing a precedent for ad hoc legality to attack political dissidence,” said the president, Quim Torra, in a statement. The Vice President, Pere Aragonès, regretted that the “blockade” by the TC is a further problem, added to an “invented crime” and a “non-impartial tribunal”. Former President Carles Puigdemont participated from Waterloo, in a meeting of MEPs and members of the JxCat Government in which they decided to start a fasting session for “solidarity.” The ANC will also be taking similar action.
From the Podemos / Comuns party, the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, expressed her solidarity with the hunger strike denouncing the “unacceptable abuse” by the TC, which, she said, “endangers the rights of everyone.” The reactions in the constitutionalist parties were very different. On the hunger strike, the leader of Ciudadanos, Inés Arrimadas, simply said that it is a “very personal” decision and took advantage of the photo of the prisoners to accuse the Government of giving them “privileges.” A denunciation which the PP seconded. Andrea Levy, however, was even nastier: “We are not going to be distracted by this hunger strike”.
Committee of medical experts
Far from describing it as distraction, Dr. Padrós stressed yesterday the “transformational” impact of this type of protest chosen by the prisoners, as well as a few of the precedents in Catalonia. That is why he announced the creation of a commission of medical experts who will report on the health status of Turull and Sànchez periodically. Families will be left out of the media focus. The doctor outlined the consequences of the hunger strike, which is a “severe risk” for health: from tiredness to hypoglycaemia and loss of consciousness. “And in extreme situations, coma and death,” he warned. However, he said that the deontological obligation of the doctor is to “forcefully” feed the patient in the event of an irreversible danger. Sànchez and Turull have both signed documents expressing their wills regarding what to do in this case. Whether the prisoners reach that limit will depend on the results of their protest, their capacity for resistance and their health. The hunger strike by Xirinacs lasted 42 days. Sànchez and Turull have announced that theirs is, for now, indefinite.
Original Link: https://www.ara.cat/politica/primera-imatge-presos-politics-Lledoners_0_2134586768.html