LONDON Ė The legal case surrounding imprisoned Catalan independence figureheads in Spain was taken to international levels on Thursday when their British lawyer said he had presented their case to the United Nations working group on arbitrary detention.
Ben Emmerson, a lawyer specializing in international human rights, currently represents the former regional vice president of Catalonia, Oriol Junqueras, and two prominent heads of pro-independence organizations, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, all of whom remained in pretrial detention in Madrid pending possible charges of rebellion and sedition in relation to their various roles in a banned separatist vote last year.
ďI want to emphasize that this case does not ask the UN to adjudicate on the issue of Catalan independence. Rather, it seeks the UNís reaffirmation that governments can not repress political dissent through arbitrary detention of opponents,Ē Emmerson told press in London.
Emmerson insisted that the imprisonment of the secessionist figures could not be upheld by Spanish or international law.
Junqueras was remanded in custody for his alleged role orchestrating the outlawed Oct. 1 ballot and the subsequent independence declaration that prompted the Spanish government to enact Article 155 of the Constitution in a dramatic move to strip back the regionís autonomy.
Meanwhile, Cuixart and Sanchez, who headed the pro-independence organizations Omnium Cultural and the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) respectively were detained for allegedly inciting protests.
Emmerson said he agreed with the more than 100 academic legal experts in Spain who had confirmed that the charges brought against the three men were not sustainable as the allegations brought against them did not involve violence and the charges were purely political, meaning this was ďa classic case of arbitrary political detention.Ē
He insisted that the menís imprisonment violated their rights to freedom of expression and association, to political opinion and to participation in public life and was discriminatory as it targeted them for their advocacy on behalf of the Catalan people and their right to self-determination.
However, he recognized that the case could not be brought to the European Court of Human Rights until all possible legal options had been exhausted within the Spanish judiciary system.