Thousands take to the streets as Catalan Parliament speaker faces prosecution over independence debate

Politicians, leaders of civil society groups support Forcadell outside the court.
Politicians, leaders of civil society groups support Forcadell outside the court. Author: Assemblea Nacional Catalana
Several thousand people have taken to the streets in Barcelona and other cities to express their support to Catalan Parliament Speaker Carme Forcadell, who is being investigated and faces prosecution for allowing a debate on the country's independence in Catalonia's legislative chamber. Besides, politicians in several European countries are voicing outrage over the Spanish authorities' response to demands for a referendum on independence.

Forcadell is facing prosecution after she allowed a debate and vote in Parliament, July 27, on a plan to lead Catalonia towards independence. The Spanish Constitutional Court had warned Forcadell days before the vote that she needed to stop any parliamentary debate that was intended to bring Catalonia closer to secession.

A former leader of pro-independence civil society organization ANC, Forcadell today testified in court over the case, as hundreds of elected representatives and individual citizens gathered outside the building showing support for her.

According to court sources quoted by Europa Press, Forcadell said she always acted in accordance with law, and recalled she enjoys parilamentary immunity. Forcadell further wondered why MPs cannot talk about independence if the debate is alive in the Catalan society.

Support from citizens, politicians

Hours before she testified, thousands took to the streets yesterday in several Catalan cities and towns to reject what protesters regards as an antidemocratic drift by Spanish authorities. In a gathering in Barcelona, city mayor Ada Colau called on the judiciary not to interfere in a political issue which, according to her, should be solved through a referendum. Colau further said that an eventual trial would not only be against Forcadell, but against "the whole of the people".

Members of Parliament from several countries in Europe have also voiced their rejection of the prosecution. These include, among others, a group of 15 MPs (SNP, Plaid Cymru, Labour Party and SDLP) in the UK's House of Commons, German social democrat Bernhard von Grünberg (member of the Rhine-North Westphalia Parliament), Italian MP Giuseppe Civati, MPs in the Basque Parliament, and Spanish left-wing party Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias, who said he feels "ashamed as a Spaniard and as a democrat".

Welsh Parliament speaker Elin Jones expressed her "solidarity" with Forcadell "for allowing a democratic debate in the Chamber she presided". The Danish Parliament has asked the country's Foreign Affairs minister to take up a critical stance on the issue. Irish party Sinn Féin has also called on Spanish authorities to "stop the proceedings" against Forcadell.

Catalan pro-independence MEPs Josep Maria Terricabras (ERC) and Ramon Tremosa (PDECat) also reported Forcadell's prosecution during this week's plenary session in Strasbourg.