Spain's Constitutional Court has today upheld the disqualification from office of Catalan president Quim Torra.
The court agreed unanimously to hear the appeal filed by Torra's lawyer Gonzalo Boye after the Supreme Court's ruling last month, but in a second decision, rejected the lawyer's proposal that Torra be reinstated as president of Catalonia while the court considers the appeal. It therefore, for the moment, rejects the plea for interim measures which were requested. Torra will now have to wait for the final decision by the court before he can present an appeal to European justice.
After being sentenced last December to 18 months of disqualification from public office because he refused to take down a "Free political prisoners" banner, the Catalan president's appeal at Supreme Court level was rejected last month and he was formally removed from the presidential office. This final appeal at Spanish level is on constitutional grounds and is a required step if the case is to then be appealed in Europe.
In today's decision, the Constitutional Court states that there is "a special constitutional significance" in the case as "the issue raised transcends the specific case since it raises a judicial issue with a social or economic impact which is significant and general, and because it could have general political consequences."
The court refuses to reinstate Torra as president until it resolves the appeal because "it does not consider that there is an exceptional urgency" as required by the procedural law, so it is not appropriate to make an interim ruling as the defence argues "as the penalty of special disqualification from office has become effective and, moreover, because the matter presents specific substantive elements that make advisable a meditative and critical study of the interim measures urged." Thus, the ruling agrees to open a separate part of the case on the interim suspension of Torra's disqualification and says it will advise the public prosecutors and defence lawyer Boye of a deadline for them to make submissions they deem appropriate on this question.
And now what?
As well, a longer wait begins until the Constitutional Court rules on the substantive question. Today's decision to admit the appeal, but not to apply the interim precautionary measures requested by Boye that would have suspended the disqualification, effectively plays in favour of Spanish justice.
A period of time of uncertain length now begins while the Court decides whether or not to reject the substantive appeal of the president of Catalonia against his disqualification on constitutional grounds. And there is no deadline.
Until the Constitutional Court makes its ruling, Gonzalo Boye will not be able to appeal the case of Quim Torra to the European Court of Human Rights, in Strasbourg.