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The investigating judge of the High Court of Catalonia (TSJC) has this Tuesday ordered the speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Laura Borràs, to stand trial for events that took place when she was director of the Institute of Catalan Letters (ILC) between 2013 to 2017. This resolution is final and was already expected several weeks ago because the public prosecutors, the only prosecution in this procedure, presented an indictment against her, on July 14th, thus requesting that she be brought to trial. Specifically, the prosecution is asking for 6 years' imprisonment and a 21-year ban from holding public office for the president of the Together for Catalonia party (Junts) for alleged offences of abuse of authority and document falsification, after the judge rejected the final appeal against the decision by her defence lawyer. The prosecution maintains that Borràs, when director of the ILC, granted eighteen contracts, at a total cost of more than 309,000 euros, to her friend Isaías Herrero, to update the Institution's website, without any public tendering process for the contract.​

The date of the trial against Laura Borràs, Isaías Herrero - for whom the prosecution is demanding the same sentence as the politician - and her friend, Andreu Pujol, for submitting an invoice to the ILC, will not be known until after the August holiday break. The prosecutor's office maintains that they presented "dummy" budget proposals for the contracts in the names of several entities and cooperatives so that all the awards ended up going to Herrero. In the political sphere, however, the opening of the trial implies that Parliament must execute the suspension of Borràs from her speaker position and the accords between the the pro-independence parties will be put to the test.

Judge sees 'consistent' evidence

In the 25-point resolution, the Catalan High Court investigating judge Carlos Ramos indicates that, to order the case to trial, he must ensure that there are criminal indications and, in the case of the accusation made by the prosecution, the evidence against Borràs, Herrero and Pujol "has a serious and consistent basis", and reproduces the indictment document. He accordingly concludes that it is appropriate to send the case to trial, adding that "these are indications, which do not yet compromise the presumption of innocence of the accused", and that it will be at the trial before the High Court where her status as guilty or not guilty will be decided.

How did the case against Borràs begin?

The proceedings against Laura Borràs began in a lower-level investigative court in Barcelona. The head of Barcelona's investigative court number 9 was investigating Herrero for a case of drug trafficking and counterfeit currency, when the Mossos d'Esquadra intercepted emails between him and a friend who talked about the "circus" that there would be if, at the time when the Spanish government had taken control over the Catalan government under article 155, his contracts with the ILC came to light. When that judge, Sílvia Lopez Mejía, saw indications of criminal activity, she opened a separate part of the trial focused on the Institute of Catalan Letters, and when specific evidence against Borràs emerged, the judge addressed herself to the Spanish Supreme Court, since Borràs was then an MP for Junts in the Congress, in Madrid.

The Supreme Court accepted the case against Borràs in 2019. The politician was called to appear before the Supreme Court as a person investigated, but she refused to testify until reports were submitted, which, she assured, would reject the accusation that she had committed any crime. With the new Catalan elections in 2021, Borràs became a deputy in the Parliament of Catalonia, and her case was then referred to the TSJC, in April 2021. The investigation was initiated by the Mossos and the judge referred it to the Civil Guard because she was upset that the Catalan police had leaked information about police searches to certain journalists, according to judicial sources. Finally, last June, the TSJC investigating judge, Jordi Seguí (working in the court as a reinforcement), decided to prosecute Borràs and the others involved in the case for the crime of misuse of public funds, subsidy fraud, abuse of authority and document falsification. The prosecutor's office presented the indictment this July, but for two offences, not four: abuse of authority and document falsification, but demanding the highest possible punishment for the two alleged offences.

When will the Borràs trial date be known?

The organization of the judicial and political "holiday periods" are totally different. For judicial purposes, the case cannot be called in August if it does not involve preventive jail or precautionary measures, which is not the situation with the ICL case. The investigating magistrate Carlos Ramos has ordered the opening of the trial of Borràs and the other two defendants without no appeals pending. Therefore, it is completely final. And it is thus expected that in September the lawyers of the three accused will present their defence briefs and the evidence, witnesses and documents they want to present at the hearing. The judge has given them a deadline of 10 days, but as August is a month of closure, they will surely present this material when they return from the summer holidays.

The court that will judge Laura Borràs, Isaías Herrero and Andreu Puig will be formed by three judges from the civil and criminal court of the TSJC. The investigating judge or other judges who have resolved appeals cannot be part of it. In this case, then, Carlos Ramos, the second investigating judge in the ILC case, is ruled out. Currently, there are eight judges in the TSJC chamber, in addition to its president, Jesús María Barrientos. The make up of the court could be challenged by the three defendants, as happened in the disobedience case on the Bureau of Parliament led by then speaker Roger Torrent; this appeal was accepted in the case of Barrientos and it forced the trial to be delayed two months, until October 5th. Thus, the trial against Borràs might take place at the end of 2022 or the beginning of next year, if there are no unforeseen circumstances.