“No Pasaran”: Catalan Political Prisoners, Rising Fascism And Spain’s Show Trial

Steve Rushton
5 min readJun 20, 2019

“The prosecution brief states, [as part of its] charge against Jordi Cuixart, that on 20 September 2017 he said ‘No Pasaran’ (They shall not pass) emulating those Spanish democrats who fought to defend the Republic,” said Marina Roig, Cuixart’s lawyer, as her closing defense in the Spanish trial of Catalonia’s political prisoners.

Cuixart is one of 12 people charged with rebellion and sedition. The leader of Omnium, an organization that advances Catalonian language and culture, Cuixart, alongside Jordi Sànchez, has now spent more than 500 days in pre-trial prison. Ten Catalan politicians have faced a four-month trial on the same charges plus misuse of public funds. Seven of them have also faced pre-trail detention. Sentencing is expected later this year.

The independentistas assert they have a democratic mandate from the 2015 elections, in which pro-independence parties won a majority in the Catalan parliament, to hold the referendum. Spain has refused any negotiations and criminalized democratic moves toward the region’s self determination.

The Spanish prosecutor is calling for 25- to 17-year prison sentences for the accused. The decision will define the next chapter of the Catalan independence project, and will have implications beyond Spain as the issues run in tandem with battles between democracy and authoritarianism worldwide.

No Pasaran is an assertion from the Spanish Civil War against Franco’s fascism. It connects to accusations that Spain never really transitioned to democracy, which is a central claim within the independence cause — backed by the fact that the same men stayed in power and went unpunished. Spanish violence against the peaceful, bottom-up Catalan referendum only substantiates this argument.

Spain’s 21st century show trial

Globally, the trial has been widely seen as political, hence its “show trial” status. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has meanwhile demanded the immediate release of the defendants. The Spanish state has also faced criticism from respected voices including Amnesty International, The World Organization Against Torture and International Trial Watch, which said in a statement:

Steve Rushton

Freelance journalist focused on political alternatives, universal rights and ecological survival