A GROUP of more than 100 academics working in law, human rights, politics, sociology and history from 19 different countries around the world are calling for the immediate release of Catalonia’s political prisoners and for the EU to act to end repression “which represents an indelible and permanent stain on European democracy”.

READ: The letter in full

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Professor Noam Chomsky, a major figure in analytical philosophy, linguist, historian and political activist, is among the signatories, who sent their letter exclusively to The National.

He is joined by others from Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Stirling and Strathclyde universities.

“Over the past two weeks we have seen a further escalation in the use of criminal charges and arrests continue to be used by Spain against its political opponents,” they say.

“There can be no doubt that we are living the darkest days of Spanish democracy since 1978.”

As well as four political prisoners and deposed president Carles Puigdemont, the group says five more democratically elected politicians have been jailed – Jordi Turull, Josep Rull, Raul Romeva, Dolors Bassa and Carme Forcadell – with seven in exile. They write: “In addition to Clara Ponsati, a case that is familiar to your readers, those include Marta Rovira, Anna Gabriel, Toni Comin, Meritxell Serret and Lluis Puig.

READ MORE: Furious staff condemn Madrid closure of Catalonia’s public diplomacy council

“Those in exile are being hounded by European Arrest Warrants issued under the auspices of the European Union. We write to demand their immediate release, and to demand immediate action from the European Union to stop this repression, which represents an indelible and permanent stain on European democracy.”

Sociology Professor David Whyte, from the University of Liverpool, who is behind the letter, told The National that the ongoing crisis in Spanish democracy reflects a crisis in European democracy, and there appeared to be no urgency in European government to want to do anything about it.

Whyte, who is originally from Paisley, said: “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.

“Over the last month or so there’s clearly been an intensification of political repression by the [Spanish Prime Minister Mariano] Rajoy government. So, we need to keep raising our voices about this. At the beginning of the 21st-century we should not be talking about or putting up with the fact that there are political prisoners anywhere in the world, never mind in Europe.”

He said the European Union (EU) was at a crucial point in its existence with Brexit looming, and felt vulnerable, but European politicians had to take a side.

“You either side with the democratic ideal of Europe or you side with the intensively repressive government that still doesn’t seem to have got over the legacy of 1978 [when Spain’s first democratic constitution was drawn up three years after Franco’s death].

“I would say they have to make a choice and at the moment it looks like they’re making the wrong one.”

Whyte said one EU institution which had emerged from the crisis with more credibility was the European Parliament: “The delegations of MEPs that have been consistently raising the Spanish situation as a very serious problem stand in contrast to the other EU institutions.

“The delegation that went to the elections condemned very clearly the actions of the Spanish Government. If the elected representatives could see this, why can’t some of the other institutions?”

He said questions also had to be asked of the Scottish Government, which could do more to let Rajoy know that using European Arrest Warrants would only inflame things and “intensify the repression and give more confidence to Rajoy in what he’s doing”.

“The Scottish Government have a choice to make – do they want to see the democratic expression of a people who have a cause that’s not a million miles from theirs – do they want to see that legitimately expressed? What’s happened in Spain wouldn’t probably happen in Scotland but if we allow this to go without protest and a very strong resistance to the Spanish Government who knows what might happen in future in any other small country, not necessarily Scotland?

“I think this is a very important moment in European history but also for the Scottish Government and Scottish history, because if they’re serious about asserting the right of peoples to determine their own future then they have to take as strong a position as they can to oppose Rajoy’s repression.”.

Whyte said people who were “not very high profile” but who helped organise the October referendum, had been arrested, which could open the floodgates to others being held without trial.

He added: “Unless someone puts their finger in the dam and says ‘enough is enough’ right now, it’s not going to stop.

“It will send a green light to a government that has already overstepped the mark much further than we could ever have expected.”