This letter expresses our indignation over the decision by the Spanish judiciary to prosecute two political scientists and three jurists. The political scientists Jordi Matas (full professor, Universitat de Barcelona), Tània Verge (associate professor, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona) and the jurists Marc Marsal (part-time lecturer, Universitat de Barcelona), Josep Pagès (part-time lecturer, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) and Marta Alsina (lawyer) were appointed members of the Electoral Commission in September 2017 by the Parliament of Catalonia to monitor the self-determination referendum to be held on October 1, 2017. The Spanish government challenged the legality of this referendum and about ten days before it took place, the Spanish Constitutional Court forced all the electoral commissioners to resign by imposing a fine of 12.000 Euros per person for each day that they remained in their position. Even though they resigned, the Spanish judiciary went a step further and decided to prosecute the members of the Electoral Commission. They currently face criminal charges of “disobedience” and “usurpation of functions” and are facing the very real possibility of up to two years and nine months in prison.
It is probably the first time in the history of the European Union that political scientists and jurists are being threatened with a prison sentence for just doing their job, which is both outrageous and disproportionate. After all, these political scientists and jurists’ only ‘crime’ consisted in using their expertise to guarantee that the referendum would be held in a fair and impartial way. In doing so, they acted at the request of the Parliament of Catalonia which had a valid legal mandate at the time that derived from Act 19/2017 relating to the self-determination referendum of Catalonia. Our colleagues therefore did nothing illegal since the Spanish Criminal Code does not have any specific legal provision to punish the organising of referendums, even if they are not authorised by the central state. Thus, their prosecution is not only a spurious one but is also grounded in political reasons, which is a blatant violation of human rights.
We, the undersigned, professors of political science, law and other disciplines, denounce Spain’s persecution of basic democratic and civil rights. While we do not seek to take a position on Catalonia’s independence in this letter, we firmly condemn the illegality of imprisoning someone because of her or his political beliefs. The global community of university professors is indignant over the prosecution of our colleagues and demand the immediate removal of the threat of a prison sentence and the dropping of all criminal charges filed against them.
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