The judge in charge of the investigation into the Catalan independence movement has formally closed the inquiry to move to trial, prosecuting most of the politicians in prison or exile for rebellion. He has also ordered that Carles Puigdemont, as well as Oriol Junqueras, Raül Romeva, Jordi Turull, Josep Rull and Jordi Sànchez, be suspended from public office, including their seats in the Parliament, until the case is over.
The judge notes that the Parliament has to be informed that the six "have been suspended - automatically and by dint of article 384.2 of [the law] LECRIM - from the public roles and offices they were carrying out" and urges its governing board to "adopt the necessary measures for the full effect of the legal prevision".
According to the order, it's a "public and extraordinary cautionary measure" which aims to preserve the constitutional order, "preventing people who offer rational evidence of having challenged and seriously attacked the order of democratic coexistence through certain criminal behaviours, including the crime of rebellion, from continuing to exercise a public office of risk for the community when they also present factors which constitutionally justify the deprivation of their liberty".
Llarena says that their seats in the Parliament can be taken over by other deputies "completely, but limited to the time of their temporary suspension", if the Parliament should believe it necessary. He also warns that, if the six aren't suspended, he will undertake any actions he believes appropriate.
The suspension doesn't apply to either Toni Comín or Meritxell Serret, because the judge has accepted their request to appeal their prosecution.
The judge notes that, unlike in the case of a final sentence which could lead to them definitively losing their right to public office, the article in question sets out a purely provisional measure. This measure would lapse if the charges of rebellion are eventually dropped or if they are found innocent, or if they are released from their pretrial detention.
The judge notes that this would "end up ineffective if the logical and legitimate aspiration to maintain their parliamentary majority won in the elections should force the suspended accused to irrevocably renounce a representation which is only temporarily limited by the law".
Serret and Comín
Former agriculture and health ministers, Meritxell Serret and Toni Comín, are unaffected by today's measure because the decision also overturns an order from 27th June which confirmed their prosecution. They argued they hadn't been informed of their prosecution, nor given any statements to the court.
Llarena says that, after a number of refusals by the accused to appear in court, on 6th June their lawyer presented a filing asking for them to be accepted as having appeared in representation and defence of the two ministers. As such, the judge believes that, although their lawyers were aware of the prosecution ruling from the moment it was released, and although they could challenge the decision from the time they first appeared in the process, the time limit to appeal set out in article 384 of the law on procedure only starts after a specific notification after an appearance by the accused. The article in question states that accused have three days after being notified of their prosecution to appeal for changes to be made to it, and then five days to appeal the decision if that first appeal is denied.
The judge concludes that "although Meritxell Serret and Antoni Comín are not available to the court, and although they said in various filings that it wasn't their intention to appear in the case unless required to, given that finally they have appeared in proceedings, although it's come after the appeals to change [details of their prosecutions] filed by the other accused, and also after the fact that the corresponding appeals [against the refusals] were filed and processed, it overturns the order of 27th June 2018, which referred to the fact that the order to go to trial from 21st March 2018 takes into account the effects of that formally tried with respect to the accused previously indicated, their representatives in the process having to be notified of the order, with indications of the appeals they can lodge against this resolution".