May 27. 2024. 9:32

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Spanish Supreme Court upholds sentence against Catalan activists

Catalan pro-independence activists, including leader Oriol Junqueras, are banned from holding public office until 2031 despite receiving a government pardon for the crime of sedition in 2021, the Supreme Court decided following recent reform of the criminal code.

The pro-independence activists were sentenced to 13 years in prison and a 13-year ban from public office for the crimes of sedition and the misappropriation of funds in 2019 but were cleared of sedition following a government pardon in June 2021.

Upholding the lower court’s decision on the misappropriation of funds on Monday, the Supreme Court confirmed the 13-year ban from holding public office for Junqueras and former regional ministers of the Catalan executive, Raül Romeva, Jordi Turull and Dolors Bassa. For the other five Catalan activists, the measure was revoked.

The decision comes as the Supreme Court had to review sentences against nine Catalan pro-independence leaders over the secessionist attempt of October 2017, following a recent reform of the Criminal Code promoted by the left-wing Spanish government, which had repealed the crime of sedition and modified the crime of embezzlement.

“We will present the relevant appeals, we will meet in Europe, where there is justice, not revenge,” Jordi Turull, secretary-general of pro-independence Junts per Catalunya, stressed, likely referring to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Secretary General and spokesperson for ERC, Marta Vilalta, viewed the Supreme Court’s decision as a blow to democracy, noting that it “ignores” the recent reform.

Still, because the Supreme Court found Junqueras, Romeva, Turull and Bassa guilty of the crimes of disobedience and embezzlement, it decided not to lower the sentence that bans them from entering public office.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court sentenced Catalan pro-independence former leaders Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart for aggravated public disorder, as presented in the reformed criminal code, while sentencing former president of the Catalan Parliament Carme Forcadell and former regional ministers Joaquim Forn and Josep Rull for disobedience.

Because of the reform, they saw their bans from public office sentences lifted, the Supreme Court added. This means they will have a free hand to run in the May and December elections.

The Supreme Court stressed, however that sedition cannot be reflected in the new offence of public disorder, noting that “any attempt to reduce the scope of the offence of sedition to a problem of public order, identifiable with mobilisations or riots, blurs the focus of the problem”.

In 2021, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez pardoned the nine Catalan politicians, including Oriol Junqueras, who had been sentenced to between nine and 13 years in prison for their role in the unlawful referendum of 1 October 2017 and the political crisis that ensued.

In response to the ballot, which was met with a heavy police crackdown, the government of former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of the Partido Popular used a hitherto unused constitutional article to impose direct rule on Catalonia, dissolve its regional chamber and slate a new election.

Spain will hold its municipal elections in May, which many believe will be the first litmus test for Sanchez’s governing coalition with left-wing Unidas Podemos (GUE-NGL).

After that, the parties will have to face the general election set for December, and the political row with Catalonia is one of the ‘hot potatoes’ in the Iberian political arena.

(Fernando Heller |