Judge Pablo Llarena has today announced that 13 of those investigated in the case he is in charge of into the events surrounding last year's independence referendum will go to trial on charges of rebellion: Catalan president Carles Puigdemont; vice-president Oriol Junqueras; seven ministers, namely Joaquim Forn, Jordi Turull, Raül Romeva, Clara Ponsatí, Josep Rull, Antoni Comín and Dolors Bassa; former speaker of the Catalan Parliament Carme Forcadell; former president of the Catalan National Assembly Jordi Sànchez; president of Òmnium Cultural Jordi Cuixart and ERC's secretary general Marta Rovira. The charge is one of the most serious being investigated, carrying a maximum of 30 years in prison.
Among the other charges formalised by the judge in his ruling, five members of the Catalan government at the time of the events (Meritxell Borràs, Lluís Puig, Carles Mundó, Santi Vila and Meritxell Serret) are accused of misuse of public funds and disobedience. Puigdemont, Junqueras, and the seven ministers facing the charge of rebellion are also to be prosecuted for misuse of public funds. The judge allows for this to be considered a specific, separate crime (under article 432 of Spain's Criminal Code), or an aggravating factor for a charge of rebellion with misuse of public funds (article 473.2 of the Code).
Similarly, the judge prosecutes for the crime of disobedience five former members of the Parliament's Bureau, the body that runs the chamber, Lluís Maria Corominas, Lluís Guinó, Anna Isabel Simó, Ramona Barrufet and Joan Josep Nuet, as well as Mireia Boya and Anna Gabriel, former parliamentary president and former spokesperson respectively of CUP.
The judge sets a "civil responsibility guarantee" of 2.1 million euros (£1.8 million, $2.6 million) to be split between the fourteen members of the Catalan government prosecuted, that is, Puigdemont, Junqueras, Forn, Turull, Romeva, Ponsatí, Rull, Comín, Bassa, Borràs, Puig, Mundó, Vila and Serret. Such a guarantee is posted to cover a potential fine that could arise once the sentence is decided. The quantity comes from the 1.6 million euros the judge says the investigation concludes were used to hold the referendum, plus a third of that total, as required by law.
In March 2015, at the same time as the Catalan government and Parliament were working on the white paper on the national transition of Catalonia, the agreement on illegal actions expanded "to other different groups of the political parties which formed the political majority which gave support to the Catalan government and which had signed the legislature agreement".
In this way, the judge adds, the "road map" of the independence process was agrees between political parties Convergència and ERC and pro-independence organisations Òmnium, ANC and AMI. He lists the Constitutional Court verdicts overturning resolutions passed by the Catalan Parliament relating to the secession and how the Parliament, following the road map, stubbornly and tirelessly disobeyed the court over two legislatures and five years. The judge also notes how these actions by the Parliament culminated in September 2017 in passing the laws calling the 1st October referendum and setting the groundwork for the transition to an independent state. Both laws were declared void and unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court in October and November.
Already in November 2015, as the first bill of the legislature in which Carles Puigdemont would be nominated president, the Parliament voted to announce the "start of a process creating the independent Catalan state in the form of a republic", declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court on 2nd December that year. The judge notes that that sentence said that the Parliament had attributed itself with sovereignty over that deriving from the autonomy Catalonia is recognised as having in the Spanish Constitution, remarking that it couldn't proclaim itself a source of legal and political legitimacy whilst giving itself the power to violate the constitutional system from which its own authority derives.
Relating to the actions taken by the members of the government, the judge says that the ministers "despite the repeated statements of the unconstitutionality and nullity of the different parliamentary initiatives previously referred to (the different ministers of the government having been personally required to observe them) and despite the suspension and nullity of the decrees for the holding of the referendum, the executive bodies of the Catalan government continued with their permanent and obsessive activity to create the so-called structures of state (which would allow for an effective independence in agreement with the white paper's forecasts) as well to spread their project and promote the greatest support it could get from the international community and the public, as they had done through the whole legislature, as well as undertaking the actions they believed necessary to carry out the self-determination vote referred to".
As for the holding of the referendum itself, the judge describes the actions of the ministers, like those of health, education, and work and social affairs who, through administrative decisions, took on responsibilities belonging to the managers of centres depending on their departments to ensure they would be available as polling stations. He also describes a meeting held on 28th September 2017, three days before the referendum, between the Mossos d'Esquadra (the Catalan police) and Carles Puigdemont, Oriol Junqueras and interior minister Joaquim Forn in which senior police officials warned of the possibilities of a surge of violence and the risks involved in holding the referendum. "Despite this", writes the judge, "the members of the government decided that the vote had to be held".
In the 69-page ruling, the judge describes the operation carried out by the Mossos d'Esquadra on 1st October, accusing them of, "through inaction", failing to fulfil legal orders to prevent the referendum. He says they deployed 7,000 agents when, on normal election days, more than 12,000 would be used.
In terms of other roles, Llarena describes the actions of the pro-independence members of the Parliament's Bureau, as well as the roles played by pro-independence organisations ANC and Òmnium who, according to the judge, assumed "the responsibility for promoting the greatest social acceptance of the secessionist initiatives, and also promoting the public belief that the proclamation of the republic was perfectly viable, looking, in the end, for an intense public mobilisation which would favour the [Spanish] state ending up accepting the independence of Catalonia, in the face of the events employed".
Rebellion and misuse of public funds: Carles Puigdemont, Oriol Junqueras, Joaquim Forn, Jordi Turull, Raül Romeva, Antoni Comín, Dolors Bassa, Clara Ponsatí, Josep Rull
Rebellion: Jordi Sànchez, Jordi Cuixart, Marta Rovira, Carme Forcadell
Disobedience and misuse of public funds: Meritxell Borràs, Lluís Puig, Carles Mundó, Santiago Vila, Meritxell Serret
Disobedience: Lluís Maria Corominas, Lluís Guinó, Anna Isabel Simó, Ramona Barrufet, Joan Josep Nuet, Mireia Boya, Anna Gabriel.
Three of those investigated (Artur Mas, Marta Pascal and Neus Lloveras) are not charged with anything.
More details on all the charges and reasoning in our article in Catalan.