The decision by Spain's Supreme Court to order the repetition of the trial of Arnaldo Otegi, after the knock it took from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, is a challenge to European justice and also a distant storm warning on what might happen in the event that EU courts end up correcting the sentences given to the Catalan political prisoners. The Supreme Court has applied the maxim of "no-one bullies me" and has set out to demonstrate that there is nothing beyond Spanish justice and that, in any case, the annulment of the trial by the Human Rights Court is to be treated as a recommendation. And so, as a side effect, it will also delay the compensation to the Basque leader which was decreed by the European court.
It will be the first time that a trial overturned by Strasbourg is repeated and it is by no means a good precedent. This position was not taken by the National Audience court either, which refused to repeat the hearing when requested by an association for victims of terrorism. As a result of that trial, the so-called Bateragune case, which convicted five leaders of the pro-Basque left for trying to reestablish the banned Batasuna party, Arnaldo Otegi was behind bars until the very last day of the six and a half years imprisonment to which he was sentenced. Now, the paradox emerges that after European courts annulled the trial in 2018, and in addition, ruled that the Spanish state did not guarantee a fair hearing to the current EH Bildu coordinator, Spanish justice is tightening the screws even harder by ordering a retrial.
And the question which is unanswered, for now, is: what is the Supreme Court's real objective with this decision which was, moreover, a unanimous one from its criminal law chamber? Could it be that the sentence of six years' jail given could be raised, in a new trial, to eight, ten or who knows what? Could they go that far in the process of correcting what Europe has classified as a trial without guarantees of justice? Given that scarcely a day goes by in which the Supreme Court does not surprise us, who knows if this may become the ultimate goal. There are also those who believe that behind this decision is the attempt to delay the financial compensation set by the European court as long as possible. Although this second argument does not seem solid enough for a challenge of this nature.
Rather, it seems that the Supreme Court wanted to have its say on the parliamentary support for the Pedro Sánchez government and its recently passed budget. And behind all this would be the great battle that is to reopen about the Catalan political prisoners. At the moment with at least three fronts: the amnesty law, which is being promoted from Catalonia; the pardons which could be conceded by prime minister Sánchez, who might be under pressure to relinquish commitments that deputy PM, Pablo Iglesias, may have reached; and the legal battle that will be opened in the future with the European courts if they overturn the Supreme Court ruling. Because that moment will come. And, perhaps, someone has considered that to start opening up the legal doctrine, the way forward is the repetition of the Otegi trial and that this move will be useful when the time comes for the case of the Catalan prisoners who are collectively serving more than a hundred years' jail.
The Spanish state has enough biographical baggage to stick to its guns as it has always done throughout history.