Seven of the Catalan political prisoners are to remain locked up under a standard-security prison regime until a court hearing is held on a prosecutors' appeal against the open prison regime that they briefly enjoyed in July. This Tuesday, the judge of penitentiary surveillance court number 5 for Catalonia rejected the submission presented by defence lawyers for the imprisoned politicians and civil leaders.
This, while the other two pro-independence prisoners, Carme Forcadell and Dolors Bassa, are still able to take prison leave during the days and at weekends, because a second judge made a different interpretation when faced with an identical prosecution demand.
In today's ruling, the judge chose to maintain the suspension of the open third level regime for Oriol Junqueras, Joaquim Forn, Raül Romeva, Jordi Sanchez, Josep Rull, Jordi Turull and Jordi Cuixart while it resolves the prosecutors' appeal, which it plans to complete "in the coming days" due to their "preferential and urgent character." The judge stated that she does not want to "prejudge or enter into the merits of the substantive case."
In the event that this penitentiary surveillance court endorses the open regime when it rules on the substance of the claim, the prosecutors could elevate their appeal to the Supreme Court, so the final decision on the prison privileges of all nine prisoners will end up being determined by Spain's highest court.
Less than two weeks in an open regime
On July 14th, Catalan justice ministry officials endorsed resolutions which had previously been passed by prisoner treatment boards at the relevant prisons on July 2nd. Thus the nine political prisoners were able to begin a third level regime under which they only had to return to the prisons to sleep from Monday to Thursday. From July 17th, the pro-independence leaders were able to spend weekends at home and return to the penitentiary on Monday.
The prisoners, however, were only able to make use of these privileges for two weekends. On Tuesday, July 28th, following new doctrine created by the Supreme Court in relation to former parliamentary speaker Carme Forcadell, this regime was suspended by a prison judge and, since then, seven of the nine have returned to the arrangement under which they had earlier served, prohibiting them from leaving the centre to go to work or care for a relative, or to take one-off leave.
Forcadell and Bassa: same facts, different decision
Today's decision does not affect Carme Forcadell or former labour minister Dolors Bassa. The prosecutors' case for withdrawing their leave privileges was heard by a different penitentiary court - court number 1 in Barcelona - and it ruled that that the two could continue their third-level permissions while waiting for the substance of the prosecutors' appeal to be considered.
This court ruled that the new doctrine established by the Supreme Court only provided for precautionary suspension of an open regime when the appeal is presented before the sentencing court, that is, before the Supreme Court itself. For this reason, the judge at court number 1 refused to suspend their leave privileges, as the appeal is still in the hands of the penitentiary surveillance court.