THE FORMER leader of Spain’s main opposition Popular Party, Pablo Casado, has been called to testify as a suspect for propagating a hoax about schools in Catalunya. 

The northeastern region’s government filed the lawsuit against Casado last year for slander, libel and a hate crime after he claimed that students at the region’s schools who speak in Castilian Spanish and not Catalan are punished by, among other things, not being allowed to go to the bathroom.

Casado, who stepped down as leader of the PP in April, has been called to the court by a judge in Barcelona after a long investigative process, according to Spanish daily El País. The judge will be taking a statement from the politician for the offence of slander.

The statements were made by Casado in December 2021 during a press conference, and came at a time when there were ongoing legal battles about the use of Castilian Spanish in Catalan classrooms. 

The issue of the use of the Catalan language in schools has long been a political hot potato, with a court ruling establishing 25% of classes must be taught in Castilian Spanish. This has met with resistance from some schools and the regional government, which is run by pro-independence parties. 

“Can we tolerate there being teachers with instructions to not let children go to the bathroom because they speak Spanish?” asked Casado rhetorically at the press conference in December. “Can we tolerate children having rocks stuffed into their backpacks because they speak Spanish at break time? Can we tolerate children of civil guards and National Police officers being targeted in class and being told that they can’t integrate?”

The latter question was a reference to a case that occurred after the 2017 independence drive, when the children of police officers involved in the violent repression of the illegal vote on Catalonia’s secession from Spain in October of that year were alleged to have been discriminated against at school. The case, however, was shelved in 2019 based on a lack of evidence against the three accused teachers. 

The other claims made by Casado were either urban myths or historical allegations from another Spanish region, according to online daily El Diario

According to the Catalan government spokesperson, Patrícia Plaja, the lawsuit is aimed at responding to “false accusations that attack the teaching staff and education system as a whole”, according to El País

The lawsuit has taken time to reach the inside of a courtroom, after having first been shelved by the Supreme Court, given that Casado had parliamentary immunity at the time, and then having been passed to the courts in Galicia, which is where Casado was when he made the statement. The case was finally accepted by the Barcelona judge on October 27.

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