In an unexpected verdict, the high court of Catalonia today acquitted former CUP deputy Mireia Boya on a charge of disobedience in relation to the build up to the Catalan independence referendum fo 2017. Boya was brought into the investigation several months after the first wave of accusations and arrests iin November 2017, along with several other MPs who played senior roles in their respective parties, such as Marta Pascal (PdeCAT), Marta Rovira (ERC) and Anna Gabriel (CUP).
But later, the case - which at its investigated stage focused on well over twenty politicians, public officials and activists - was split into different parts. Mireia Boya was re-allocated from Spain's Supreme Court to the Catalan high court along with the members of the parliamentary Bureau. In fact, the verdict which this court announced today stresses that she was in a different category from those with whom she stood trial: "She was not part of the Bureau of Parliament" and "she acted, apart from exercising the functions of her status as an MP elected by the CUP-CC, as the parliamentary leader of that party".
That is, the court only found against those MPs who, as members of the Bureau, ordered the debate, but not against one who simply participated in it.
But the decision also consciously opens the door for other accused pro-independence politicians who are in exile: "We are also aware that what is decided about her could have consequences for other defendants who were in a similar situation and who for now have defaulted on appearing and are awaiting trial." The sentence on page 152 of the court ruling opens the way for the return. But it doesn’t affect everyone the same way.
Former CUP deputy Anna Gabriel is in the same situation as Mireia Boya and, therefore, on the basis of the offences of which she is accused, her acquittal would be logical. But what about Marta Rovira, ERC secretary general, who also entered the investigation in early 2018 like the others, and, like Gabriel, left for Switzerland the day she was told to report to the Supreme Court?
Can Marta Rovira return?
In order to apply the same judicial logic, their cases have to be equivalent. That is, they must be accused of the same offences.
Gabriel was accused of disobedience. But Marta Rovira faces an accusation of rebellion. In fact, investigating judge Pablo Llarena considered her one of the key leaders of the whole plan to achieve independence.
On March 23rd, 2018, the Supreme Court published the names of the defendants and what they were charged with. That day, senior PDeCAT members Artur Mas, Marta Pascal and Neus Lloveras were removed from the case against against the independence process.
While Mireia Boya and Anna Gabriel were at the bottom of the list that day, not accused of crimes that could take them to prison, Marta Rovira is in the top tier, holding a key relationship with the top officials.
Boya and Gabriel are charged with disobedience for "disregarding the decisions of the Constitutional Court" - being responsible as MPs for their part in Parliament's adoption of the two independence process laws, the law of the referendum, to govern the holding of the October 1st referendum, and the law of the transition, to regulate the shift from Spanish to Catalan legality after a victory for independence in the 1st October vote.
On the other hand, Rovira is accused of "essential participation in the creation of mechanisms for action, parliamentary promotion of support and coordination legislation for sectors of the administration and responsibility for ensuring full availability of voting centres at the referendum” and enters the trial at the same level as the government ministers. That same day Rovira did not appear and departed for Switzerland.
According to legal experts, in another situation, and with a different political climate, "a pact would be made about the return." The return of the exiles, and in this particular case that of the ERC leader. But the trajectory of the independence process in the courts rules out any option of reaching agreements.
The other exiles are not given any new options for an easier return home by the acquittal of Boya. Those in Belgium and Scotland were ministers in a government that the Supreme Court says rose up against the Spanish state. So right now, the only one of the exiled Catalan leaders who could risk returning without serious criminal consequences is Anna Gabriel.