Three jailed Spain’s Catalan leaders appeal to UN panel over 'unlawful' imprisonment

A protester holds a banner depicting images of Catalan separatist leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez in front of police officers during a demonstration outside the Catalan parliament on January 30, 2018 in Barcelona. (Photo by AFP)
Three jailed leaders of Spain’s Catalonia region have appealed against their sentences to a United Nations panel.
Lawyers representing Oriol Junqueras, the former vice president of Catalonia, as well as Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, leaders of two grassroots separatist groups, said Thursday they would take the cases to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to protest their imprisonments, which they said were hampering their political activities.
“Their detention by Spain is an affront to human rights, designed to prevent them from performing their role as political representatives of the Catalan people,” said Ben Emmerson, a member of the defense team.
(L-R) Jessica Jones, Ben Emmerson and Rachel Lindon, lawyers representing three jailed Catalan leaders, attend a press conference in central London on February 1, 2018. (Photo by AFP)
Spain launched a crackdown in Catalonia after the former government of the region declared independence from Madrid in late October last year.
Senior leaders of the independence drive were arrested on charges of rebellion and sedition while arrest warrants were issued for former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four of his cabinet members, who have fled to Belgium.
However, the leaders caught in the crackdown managed to keep their majority in Catalonia’s parliament in snap elections in December. Their lawyers now argue that Spain should set them free so that they can perform their political duties.
“Spain must release these men,” said Emmerson, adding, “This case does not ask the UN to adjudicate on the issue of Catalan independence but seeks the UN's reaffirmation that governments cannot repress political dissent through arbitrary detention.”
Opinions issued by the UN panel, which is made up of independent human rights cases, are not binding. However, the group has managed to draw international attention to some sensitive cases, including the one in 2016 related to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange whom the court designated as a victim of “arbitrary” detention at Ecuador's embassy in London, where he fled and sought asylum to avoid arrest.

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