Political prisoners and Catalonia

Photograph: Alberto Estevez/EPA

Photograph: Alberto Estevez/EPA


Sir, – Your analyses of current affairs in Spain, particularly Catalonia and the Basque Country (being within the Spanish state), is second to none among the mainstream press published in English, and I would venture to say this is greatly due to contributors such as Paddy Woodworth.

However, I would disagree with him (“Polarised dogmas hinder resolution of Catalan conflict”, Opinion & Analysis, November 20th) that the Catalan independence leaders, imprisoned while awaiting trial for sedition and rebellion, “have been treated with due process”.

He further writes, “But they are not political prisoners, nor prisoners of conscience”; a sentence that clashes with the next, “But they are accused of politically motivated crimes under a judicial system notorious for political interference”. This prompts the question as to who is a political prisoner or a prisoner of conscience and who is not; indeed, as to who has the moral, even legal, authority of defining such a figure.

Moreover, in the current Spanish constitutional crisis, Spanish government ministers and some jurists have cynically claimed that “in Spain there are politicians who are prisoners but there are no political prisoners”.

Finally, we would all like to think that this conflict could have been and could yet be avoided with political goodwill on both sides, negotiations, and so on.

But if one side, especially the “big brother” one, does not want such, it is a no-win situation for the other. – Yours, etc,



The Basque Country,