© AFP 2021 / Josep Lago
In recent days, Spanish politicians and the media have begun to show unexpected activity in the “Russian direction”. They were suddenly concerned about the difficult state of democratic freedoms in Russia and the fate of Alexei Navalny, whom Madrid categorically demanded to be released. When Moscow began pointing out the double standards of the Spanish authorities, recalling the fate of Catalan political prisoners, this caused a flurry of emotional comments.
Spanish Foreign Minister Arancia Gonzalez has repeatedly repeated that her country is one of the 23 “full-fledged democracies in the world”, and said that “in Spain there are no political prisoners, but there are political prisoners.” That caused ironic comments from the representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova. It should be noted that Gonzalez expressed concern over the fate of Russian “political prisoners” while on a visit to Saudi Arabia, where she was more interested in the local metro, and not in the state of freedom of speech in this undoubtedly democratic country.
The Spanish press also lashed out at the words of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, which he said during a joint press conference following a meeting with EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell. The local newspaper El Confidencial, for example, stated that Lavrov “dared to compare the Catalan separatists who fled and were convicted by an objective court and Alexei Navalny,” and called his words “a humiliating mockery of the EU,” demanding that Europe severely punish Russia for this.
At the same time, the Spanish media did not begin to explain to their readers that Lavrov in his speech just emphasized the sovereignty of the decisions of Madrid and the Spanish courts against the pressure of the European Union. Recalling the fate of the Catalan political prisoners, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry explained: “I recalled this in connection with the fact that our court was accused of making a politicized decision. The judicial authorities of Germany and Belgium appealed to the Spanish leadership regarding those three Catalans with an appeal to overturn the sentences passed for political reasons. The Spanish authorities replied: “You know, we have our judicial system. Do not even think to doubt the decisions that we make in our courts according to our laws. “This is exactly what we want from the West in terms of reciprocity.”
That is, the Russian Foreign Ministry stressed and stresses that it never commented on the decisions of the Spanish judicial authorities in the most controversial political processes and therefore demands the same from Madrid. If the Spanish press saw in Lavrov’s words “humiliation of the European Union,” then it is thereby attacking the independence of its own judiciary. But for this very reason the readers tried not to quote verbatim quotes from Russian diplomats, limiting themselves to mentioning the “blasphemous” parallel with the Catalan case.
At the same time, a lot has already been written about the harshness (it is more correct to use the word “cruelty”) of the Spanish police regarding the peaceful protests in Catalonia. Lavrov, before meeting with Borrell, suggested that he watch a short film about how rallies in the West are dispersed, but if he wanted to make such a video sequence only from the violent scenes of the dispersal of demonstrations by supporters of the Catalan independence referendum, then it would be possible to edit a multi-hour television series from them.
While our Foreign Ministry is showing diplomatic etiquette and defiantly does not comment on the decisions of the Spanish courts, urging its colleagues to do the same, unpleasant parallels for Madrid are cited on the rostrum of the European Parliament. The speech of the MEP from Ireland Claire Daly, who shamed the EU for double standards regarding the Navalny case (she directly called him a racist) and drew attention to another resident of Catalonia persecuted by Madrid, rapper Pablo Asel, caused a great resonance. “Where is the call for sanctions against Spain?” – Daly asked a rhetorical question to her European colleagues.
The case of Asel, who considers himself a Leninist, is not as widely covered by the European media as the case of Navalny, if at all. But the singer was sentenced to two years in prison solely for the texts of his songs and tweets. A Madrid court found him guilty of “glorifying terrorism” and insulting the Spanish crown. In addition to a prison sentence, the court banned the singer from holding public office for a period of six years and fined him almost 30 thousand euros.
In January, he was ordered to volunteer in prison to serve at least nine months in prison. Asel publicly denied this, saying: “They will have to kidnap me.” A few hours before the expiration of the court ultimatum (eight o’clock last Friday evening), the singer posted his new song against the Spanish King Philip VI, which immediately gained more than 200 thousand views. But the Spanish press for some reason writes more about videos from Navalny – this is closer to her.
An analysis of the 64 tweets that Asel was charged with during the trial shows that the lion’s share of them is criticism (admittedly more than harsh) of the Spanish royal family. At the same time, a significant part of them concerned the former king Juan Carlos, who, we recall, was forced to abdicate after justified accusations of corruption and is now in “self-exile” outside the country.
Among other things, Asel, who lives in the Catalan city of Lleida, in his songs and tweets, constantly criticizes the Spanish police for their brutality. The most recent example cited by the singer was the beating by two police officers of a resident of the city of Linares (Andalusia) and his 14-year-old daughter. They beat the lying person in broad daylight, not embarrassed by the mass of witnesses, or the fact that everything was recorded on video. This sparked protests by local residents against the police brutality, as a result of which 13 protesters were detained.
Asel drew attention to the fact that on the same day in Madrid hundreds of supporters of ultra-right ideas staged a demonstration in memory of the fighters of the Blue Division, which fought on Hitler’s side against the Red Army. And no quarantine restrictions on mass events forced the Spanish police to intervene. While the actions in support of Asel himself are dispersed by the security forces.
And no political prisoners in Spain! Madrid is not responding in any way to calls by human rights defenders to abandon the persecution of dissidents and to stop using disproportionate police force in relation to peaceful demonstrations. It has already reached the point that Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias is forced to admit: “How can our country be a democracy if the political conflict has ceased to be regulated through political channels and is ultimately resolved through police and judicial channels?”
How this statement contrasts sharply with the words of the Spanish Foreign Minister! And to what extent it confirms the correctness of the Russian Foreign Ministry, which calls on the Europeans (and in particular the Spaniards) to deal with their internal problems and refrain from advice on how to equip democracy and the judicial system in Russia. Judging by the way these mechanisms work in modern Europe, we can already teach a lot to the Europeans themselves. But we refrain from this. Perhaps we are in vain abstaining. Sergei Lavrov directly hinted at this in an interview with Vladimir Solovyov, pointing out that Europe had already “tested our patience and goodwill” for a long time. But everything has its limits, even Russia’s patience.
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