STAFF at Diplocat – the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia – have issued their last communique after it was “liquidated” by the Spanish government following its imposition of direct rule on the wealthy north-eastern state under Article 155 of Spain’s constitution.

A highly-critical statement from the body’s employee assembly denied it was one of “those unnecessary organisations … created to participate in the development of the secessionist process”, as claimed in the closure decree.

Diplocat, which included banks, council and business groups, universities and sports organisations such as FC Barcelona among its members, was created in 2012, having evolved from the Catalan Pro Europe and Catalonia World platforms.

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As such, says the employee assembly, it was not created for “secessionists purposes”.

“During the year 2017… Diplocat has organised debates and seminars on municipal diplomacy and on integration policies of refugees. Furthermore, Diplocat has organised projects abroad related to green energy and about urban territory management.”

It was not aimed at setting up relationships with foreign governments, but at “broadcasting the Catalan reality to individuals and entities abroad”.

The assembly said it was not for Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party (PP) to evaluate the necessity of the body, but that it was for the Catalan government and the 38 members of the council to decide if Catalonia should have an entity like Diplocat: “Activities aimed at explaining Catalonia’s situation abroad have often been organised upon the request of foreign universities or think tanks expressing their interest in Catalonia.

“Diplocat, in these conferences, has laid out the wish of the majority of the Catalan citizens to have the right to decide, but Diplocat has never taken part regarding independence ... the specific order from Diplocat’s board.”

The statement said the assembly believed that by closing Diplocat, the Spanish government had “exceeded” its authority, even under direct rule.

“Suppressing an organisation like Diplocat, a legal and legitimate public-private council of 39 members that represent the Catalan society in a broad and transversal way, infringes Article 2 of the self-same Spanish constitution,” it said.

“Article 155 does not enable the Spanish state to dissolve autonomic bodies, as the actions taken have to be temporary and not definitive. It seems that what bothers the Spanish Government is not Diplocat’s possible [and untrue] drift towards independence ... but that Catalonia is outside the circles controlled by the powers of the Spanish state, its foreign ministry and its embassies.

“We encourage Diplocat’s 39 members to publicly express their opinion on the closing of the council and to show their rejection if … they believe that this is an unfair and arbitrary decision that goes against Catalonia’s interests and its civil society.”

One insider added: “As you all know, silencing dissenting voices is one of the basic characteristics of authoritarian states.”