This Thursday at 12 noon, the president of Catalonia, Quim Torra, will take a seat in one of the places intended for members of the public and from there will follow the Supreme Court's cassation hearing on his disqualification as president. If the prosecution's demand is granted, he will be the second incumbent president to be removed from office by the Spanish state, after Mariano Rajoy dismissed Carles Puigdemont and the entire pro-independence government from office in October 2017, using article 155 of the constitution. On that occasion it was because of a referendum and the (temporary) proclamation by Parliament of the independence of Catalonia; on this occasion, if the disqualification is consummated, Torra will have to leave office for having hung a banner on the balcony of his government's palace demanding freedom for political prisoners and exiles, accompanied by a graphic of a yellow ribbon.
It continues to be surprising that after a trial in which the most normal result would be the acquittal of the accused or, at the most, a fine, everyone believes that the disqualification from office will be confirmed and the opposition parties in the Catalan Parliament even made use of Wednesday's general debate in the house to say goodbye. If someone was taking bets, I'm sure they would have given very, very long odds on the Supreme Court rejecting the disqualification, as this option seems to have been absolutely ruled out.
The question, therefore, cannot be any other: why does everybody think that Spanish justice will do exactly the opposite of what common sense dictates and which many legal experts have clearly defined as an act of possible judicial malfeasance? Is anyone surprised by such a lack of solidity in the accusation and the fear of reprimands from European justice in the face of such a legal atrocity? Can anyone think of a similar situation in France, Germany or the United Kingdom or, in the case of the banner, would we be talking about an action in the context of freedom of expression that could not be punished with a sentence so clearly exorbitant? Why is Spain always so far away from European doctrine on such issues and equally ready to put a rapper in prison as to remove a president for hanging a banner? In the end, proportionality is also something to keep in mind.
It is obvious that Torra did not have a fair trial in the High Court of Catalonia when he was sentenced last December to a year and a half of disqualification from holding public office, for an offence of disobedience to an order from Spain's Central Electoral Commission, a body that is partisan and clearly in question. It is a conviction that is only understandable in the framework of the general case which continues against the Catalan independence movement, which first targeted Artur Mas and his government for the unofficial independence consultation on 9th November, 2014, then Puigdemont and his executive for the events of October 2017 and now Torra. It is no small thing to interfere judicially against three presidents of Catalonia, and dozens of ministers and intermediate positions in the Catalan administration in less than six years. Someone about 600 kilometres away should be highly embarrassed that this could be happening at the scale that it is happening and with the level of repression - of all kinds - that is being used.
Because this trial is ultimately not about Quim Torra or his disqualification from office, no matter how painful that is. It is, fundamentally, about the dangerous path that the Spanish state has chosen in which any allegation of law breaking ends up being more or less accepted if the victim is a pro-independence activist. A path that always ends up being highly noxious for a democratic system.