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Prestigious US thinker and activist Noam Chomsky is just one of over a hundred academics in the fields of law, human rights, politics, sociology and history, from 19 different countries, who on Friday called for the “immediate release” of Catalan pro-independence leaders being held in prison. In a letter sent to Scotland’s ‘The National’ newspaper, the academics also call on the European Union to act at once “to stop this repression, which represents an indelible and permanent stain on European democracy”.

Apart from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Chomsky, who is well known for his political activism, the letter is signed by other top academics from the universities of Liverpool, Columbia, Glasgow, St Andrews, Helsinki and Manchester, among others. In the letter, the scholars say that there is “no doubt that we are living the darkest days of Spanish democracy since 1978” and they are critical of the “escalation in the use of criminal charges and arrests continued to be used by Spain against its political opponents”.

Prison and exile

As well as calling for the release of the jailed independence leaders, the letter lists the officials in exile, who are currently subject to extradition requests from Spain, describing them as “being hounded by European Arrest Warrants issued under the auspices of the European Union”. Among the Catalan officials named in the letter is Clara Ponsatí, who is currently fighting extradition from Scotland.

Talking to ‘The National’, Sociology Professor David Whyte, from the University of Liverpool, said the ongoing crisis in Spanish democracy reflects a crisis in European democracy: “To have political prisoners – not only those already in jail but it looks like others will be added to that number – the lack of outrage from governments around the world seems to us to be appalling and something that we have to raise our voices about”, he said.

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