Jordi Turull will be the first of the Catalan political prisoners to appeal his sentence in Europe. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will now be able to hear his case after Spain's Constitutional Court dismissed his appeal against the sedition offence for which he was jailed arising from the 2017 Catalan independence process. The rejection of the appeal was expected, but was a necessary prerequisite, exhausting the Spanish appeal route before Europe could be approached. The Spanish part of the process has taken almost three years - a period which Turull has spent in prison, and in which he has twice been ordered back to a standard lock-up regime after the ephemeral granting of greater prison leave rights.
Now the doors of Europe are opening and in the coming weeks a team of lawyers will present his appeal. An appeal that comes with a glimmer of hope after the dissenting opinion given by two of the Constitutional Court judges that reject virtually all the arguments, not only of their constitutional colleagues in dismissing the appeal, but also of the Supreme Court's original judgment. The disproportionate sentence, of 12 years' imprisonment and disqualification from office holding for a crime of sedition, has for the first time broken the unanimity of the Spanish judiciary. That point was emphasised today by Jordi Turull who, using a day of prison leave, gave a press conference with his lawyers.
And Turull addressed Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez directly - the "most progressive executive in history", he remarked - and asked him a clear question. "Which of the two positions of the Constitutional Court does Pedro Sánchez's executive support? The one that reduces rights or the one that defends there is no law without the defence of fundamental rights?"
Jordi Turull gave an extensive assessment of the new situation which has now emerged following the Constitutional Court's ruling and the dissenting opinion of magistrates Juan Antonio Xiol and María Luisa Balaguer. The former Catalan minister stated that "the dissenting votes shatter and contradict the lie that says in Spain the rule of law is solvent, that there was no viciousness or persecution... It is a mantra that is beginning to unravel."
The former minister highlighted the two judges' distanced position, which breaks the judicial unanimity which has reigned so far. And in this regard, he stressed that not only have there been warnings about the situation from Amnesty International, the UN, the Council of Europe, and the courts of Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom, but rather "now it is the Constitutional Court itself that questions whether Spain is a state under a rule of law that respects fundamental rights". Turull emphasized that the two judges give support to the view that the Supreme Court's sentence and its reading of the 1st October referendum and the protests shortly before on 20th September "have gone too far, they have overstepped the line so far that it is impossible for them to remain unanimous."
According to Turull, the dissenting opinion destroys even the reasons for the prisoners being denied their looser Level 3 prison leave rights: "We have been denied the open prison regime because we say the same thing that the dissenting vote says."
"History will judge you"
Turull called for courage and bravery and said at different times in the press conference that he and his colleagues are "very hopeful". "We will take this all the way. We will beat them," he ruled. The dissenting report opens a clear path not only with regard to the European court but also shows a fracture in Spanish justice. On this point, Jordi Turull also addressed the judges directly: "Do you want to remain complicit, or to defend fundamental rights? Throw out the case. History will judge you."
But Jordi Turull was also optimistic and had another message of hope for the other political prisoners who will have to go through the same legal procedures as him: "Today we begin a new path. It will be long, but we believe it will be worthwhile, not only for us, but for prisoners who are in similar situations and for future generations."
"There is no rule of law if there is no scrupulous respect for fundamental rights," reiterated Turull, who also made it clear that they have never "renounced" the 1st October referendum: "We defend it and we will stand by it until the end".
Encouragement to succeed in Europe
The appeal to the European Court of Human Rights will be presented in the coming weeks. "One week, a fortnight, we are working on it," said lawyer Jordi Pina, while asking not to be placed under any more pressure. What Pina made clear is that Turull's case is being presented without waiting for the resolution of the other defendants the lawyer represents, Jordi Sànchez and Josep Rull, whose cases will go to Europe once the Constitutional Court has ruled on them.
Pina has an extensive team of lawyers to prepare Turull's appeal to Europe. The lawyer explained that a team which "has nothing to do with the independence movement" has offered its collaboration in the case. It will be this team that assesses whether Jordi Turull's release from prison is requested as an interim measure while the ECHR considers the case. The measure is usually approved when relating to countries where the death penalty is in force and this is not the case. That's why the lawyers have not yet proposed such a measure: "Obviously that may not thought viable, but we have to finish talking, studying and deciding."
Jordi Pina also valued the dissenting votes very positively: "They give us encouragement to succeed in Europe". In this regard, Pina stressed that the two judges make it clear that on the 1st October and 20th September 2017 in Catalonia that there were not enough elements to talk about an uprising. "It is the world's first sedition case with people who induced and promoted it but without participants." According to the lawyer, the view of the two constitutional judges "is very damaging for the courts and for the kingdom of Spain."