Today's decision by the Spanish Constitutional Court to hear appeals from seven of the nine Catalan pro-independence prisoners could, far from hastening their release, have the effect of adding up to two years to their appeal process. And several of the convicted political and social leaders, who were given long prison sentences last year for their roles in Catalonia's 2017 independence referendum, have spoken out about this new situation on social media.
This Wednesday, the court heard appeals from Jordi Cuixart, Jordi Sànchez, Dolors Bassa, Joaquim Forn, Josep Rull, Jordi Turull and Carme Forcadell demanding the suspension of their convictions on grounds of being unconstitutional, and appealing for their release from jail while awaiting the court's resolution. The full court agreed unanimously to review the verdicts but not to declare the sentences null and void, nor to lift their imprisonment in the interim, and while this did not take any of them by surprise, neither did it avoid their messages of disappointment at what they consider a further cynical step to slow down the process to win their cases. The appeals to Spain's Constitutional Court, not considered likely to succeed, are nevertheless an obligatory step before the Catalan leaders can present their cases to the European Court of Human Rights.
On Twitter, several of the prisoners gave their responses to the decision. "What a surprise!" was the ironic phrase from former Catalan government minister Jordi Turull. The Constitutional Court's next move, he said, would be to file the appeals "in a drawer where they will sit around for months and months."
Quina sorpresa...! I ara de nou el nostre recurs directe cap el calaix, que ja es ben ple, a reposar mesos i mesos, per evitar que accedim quant abans millor a la justícia europea. No ho diem nosaltres només, ho van reconèixer ells mateixos no fa tant i no passa res.... #seguim https://t.co/O7qdKiFBcO— Jordi Turull i Negre (@jorditurull) May 6, 2020
"What a surprise...! And now once again our appeal [will go] straight into a drawer, which is already full, to sit for months and months, to prevent us from accessing European justice earlier. It's not just us saying this, the court recognized it themselves not so long ago and nothing has happened .... #we keep going"- Jordi Turull i Negre
Turull also refers on his Twitter account to a tweet from his colleague Josep Rull who predicted in the early hours of the morning what would end up happening hours later:
Avui el Tribunal Constitucional acceptarà a tràmit els nostres recursos d’empara amb l’únic propòsit -conscientment i premeditadament- de deixar-los en un calaix x obstaculitzar el nostre accés al TEDH d’Estrasburg.— Josep Rull i Andreu 🎗 (@joseprull) May 6, 2020
En diuen “Raons d’Estat”. La unitat d’Espanya a qualsevol preu.
"Today, the Constitutional Court will accept our appeals for amparo with the sole purpose - consciously and premeditatedly - of leaving them in a drawer and obstructing our access to the ECHR in Strasbourg. They call it "Reasons of State." The unity of Spain at any cost."- Josep Rull i Andreu
Joaquim Forn, as well, from his Twitter account saw the Constitutional Court decision as another measure to slow down the whole process:
Cap novetat, pura comèdia. Tornaran a dilatar qualsevol decisió per impedir el nostre accés a la justícia europea. https://t.co/nu13SdzZ6n— Joaquim Forn (@quimforn) May 6, 2020
"Nothing new here, pure comedy. They will again delay any decision in order to prevent our access to European justice." - Joaquim Forn
Former employment minister Dolors Bassa also responded:
El Tribunal Constitucional ha admés a tràmit els nostres recursos .Ara haurem d’esperar el temps que ELLS vulguin per resoldre i poder anar a instàncies europees.— Dolors Bassa (@dolorsbassac) May 6, 2020
Ah i han resolt NO a la llibertat durant el temps de confinament .(Deu ser per perill d e fugida)
"The Constitutional Court has agreed to hear our appeals. Now we will have to wait for as long a time as THEY want to resolve them and be able to go to European courts. Oh and they did decide a NO against our release during the [coronavirus] lockdown (must have been due to the risk of escape)" - Dolors Bassa
Last February, the news agency Europa Press reported that in 2018 the Constitutional Court had deliberately worked to ensure appeals lodged by the Catalan political prisoners would get bogged down in legal bureaucracy to prevent them from reaching the European Court of Human Rights before the trial ended.