Spain’s Attorney General, María José Segarra, is adamant that she sees no need for international observers to be present at the trial against the Catalan leaders because, I quote, “it will be broadcast live on TV, so I doubt if we could be any more transparent”. And she added that “you could try to give international observers a higher profile, but there you are: live on TV”. And, like the Eurovision song contest, it’ll be free for everyone to watch, she might have quipped.
At first it seemed as if Segarra might work to bring Spain’s judiciary back to the straight and narrow
María José Segarra embodies one of the biggest disappointments of PM Sánchez’s administration. Not only for the Catalan leaders who will sit in the dock and are at the receiving end of her actions (or, rather, the lack thereof), but for anyone who welcomed her appointment —someone with a progressive profile— with a glimmer of hope that Spain’s justice system might find its way back to separation of powers. Following a string of predecessors whose sole purpose was to dance to the tune of the Spanish government at the time (the late José Manuel Maza springs to mind: he was the AG who fabricated the charges upon which Justice Llarena has feverishly built the case that will be tried soon), at first it seemed as if Segarra might work to bring Spain’s judiciary back to the straight and narrow, after becoming completely entangled in Spanish politics, drifting towards extreme nationalism and taking on an authoritarian mindset epitomised by the Partido Popular’s so-called “gag law”, a bill that hasn’t been repealed yet. Segarra’s appointment came when the all-out judicial onslaught against Catalan separatism —in particular, the case examined by Justice Llarena— had been heavily censured by courts of law in Belgium and Germany, so much so that Llarena had no choice but to withdraw the European arrest warrants he had issued himself, thus becoming the laughingstock of the international community. But that’s not the end of it. Cases such as the “wolf pack” gang rape and Valtònyc, the exiled rap singer, made the front pages of the top international newspapers, plunging Spain’s justice and, therefore, the reputation of the rule of law, to a level of international disrepute unprecedented in this period of so-called democratic rule.
Far from doing anything to amend the situation, Segarra has given in to the powerful nationalist and far right elements among the judiciary’s top brass, becoming a foot soldier at their command and that of Foreign Minister Josep Borrell. The latter has been pouring public funds into an international PR campaign to improve Spain’s image abroad, badly tarnished by Madrid’s appalling handling of the conflict with Catalonia (and not, as he claims, by Catalonia’s independence supporters). Nevertheless, Segarra’s outlandish suggestion that the international observers should follow the trial on TV, as if it were a football match, insults the intelligence of International Trial Watch (the platform that brings together and coordinates observers from Spain and elsewhere) and, once again, the intelligence of the general public at large.