People who have some interest in Catalan independence probably know who Carles Puigdemont is. He is the deposed president of the Generalitat (the Catalan government), who much to the dismay of Spanish President Rajoy, who deposed him and called for new elections (although it was not his prerogative to do so), won those elections. Instead of staying in Spain when charged with rebellion, together with four of his government deputies, he high-tailed it for Belgium because he was not assured that he (or they) would have a fair trial (since the charge of rebellion, substantiated by the preliminary court ruling, with no known act of violence, would by itself suggest that this is simply the making of a political trial and that it is not possible that it be fair). His other motive for going to Brussels had to do with “internationalizing” the independence process and the undemocratic and illegal Spanish response to the independence movement. In prison he would be allowed to talk to his wife for ten minutes a day by phone, but barred from communicating directly with the media. Ensconced in Brussels, he holds press conferences, gives interviews, writes and publishes articles, attends university and other forums and debates, and is active in informing the world about what is happening in Catalonia and ensuring that Spanish repression remains in the public view.
Not many people know who Anna Gabriel is. She was a deputy in the last Catalan parliament that was disbanded by Rajoy when he axed the Catalan government. She is a member of the political party CUP, which is a left-wing, anti-capitalist party. She is also being charged with rebellion and she has also decided that she can best serve the cause of Catalan independence and informing the world about Spanish repression by leaving the country. She is cited to appear before the judge tomorrow (Wednesday) but she will not appear. She has gone to Geneva.
If the Spanish court demands her extradition, she will argue that she would not receive a fair trial in Spain where she is being charged for her political activities and already condemned in the Spanish press. Switzerland does not extradite people for political crimes and it is believed that there is little chance that an extradition order will be presented or that it would be honored. Her lawyers believe that extradition would be illegal because there is no evidence to suggest that Gabriel has committed any crime, whereas there is much evidence, on the part of the Spanish government, the judiciary, and the police, of political persecution.
Gabriel compares Spain with Turkey and says that Spain does nothing to ensure her safety (or that of anyone who is pro-independence). Many people have been physically attacked, some, like Gabriel (and Puigdemont, and Mireia Boya, also from the CUP) have received death threats and yet the Spanish police do nothing to find out who the perpetrators are and bring them to justice. On the other hand, they busily charge schoolteachers who held classroom discussions about what happened on 1 October, and private individuals who have posted opinions critical of the Spanish government or the Spanish police with hate crimes.
Gabriel says she has always campaigned peacefully for a referendum and she criticizes the Spanish government for wanting to stop the movement for independence with repression rather than political dialogue. She says she decided to go into exile when she saw that after more than three months, Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Sanchez, and Jordi Cuixart were still in prison and that everyone in the former government was under judicial threat.
Gabriel intends to bring to international attention the lack of judicial impartiality in Spain. Her attorney is Olivier Peter, a young Swiss who works in the area of human rights and has presented cases before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg¸ including several recent cases where Spain was found in violation of international law and condemned (and fined). She is also planning to work with attorneys and organizations that work for civil and human rights that are linked to the court. Gabriel herself is an attorney and before her service as a deputy in the Catalan parliament, was a law professor in Barcelona.
Whereas both Carles Puigdemont and Anna Gabriel have been involved in the politics of bringing about Catalan independence, they come from opposite ends of the political spectrum. This is one of the arguments against the accusation that Catalan independence is a populist movement because it incorporates the Catalan right (Puigdemont) and the Catalan far left (Gabriel) and other parties in between such as L’Esquera Republicana. Now those two opposites will lead the two international fronts bringing to light the illegal and undemocratic actions of the Spanish government and judiciary to the world.