First response from the exiled Catalan politicians to the ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on the arrest warrants issue, and, among other matters, it addresses the competence of the Spanish Supreme Court to try them. The defence lawyer of president Carles Puigdemont has submitted a new appeal to the Supreme Court in which it asks the investigating judge, Pablo Llarena, to withdraw from the case against his clients due to its lack of jurisdiction and lack of impartiality. The writ demands that Llarena recuse himself in favour of the corresponding court of first instance in Barcelona.
Although this has been a recurring argument from the defences of not only the Catalan exiles, led by Gonzalo Boye and Isabel Elbal, but also the lawyers of the rest of the pro-independence leaders, this time the appeal has been augmented by the judgment issued by the Court of Justice in Luxembourg on Tuesday, in response to Llarena's preliminary questions arising from the 2021 Belgian refusal to hand over Lluís Puig.
The Supreme Court's jurisdiction
The ECJ judgment refers explicitly, in paragraph number 100, to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to hear the case of the exiles and warns that "a national supreme court that decides at first and last instance on a criminal matter without having an express legal basis giving it jurisdiction to try all the defendants cannot be regarded as a tribunal established by law". The pro-independence leaders have always argued that their right to a judge determined by law has been violated because the Supreme Court was not the court that was legally designated to try them, but rather the High Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC), in the case of those with a protected status through the office they hold, or an ordinary court in Barcelona in the case of the rest.
The appeal asserts that, in light of the ECJ ruling, the criminal chamber of the Spanish Supreme Court "cannot be considered a court established by law" and, therefore, "neither is it able nor obliged to continue to hear these proceedings" given that it would run the risk of infringing fundamental rights.
Warning to the Supreme Court
In addition, it warns the Supreme Court that if it does not agree now to withdraw from the case, it could be forced to do so when other member states of the EU so determine by complying with what the ECJ establishes in its judgment or - "worse still," it adds - when the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) so requires.
The text recalls that the right to an impartial judge is also enshrined in the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights and denounces that this is a "condition which the investigating judge, as well as other judges of the second chamber of the Supreme Court who are taking part, clearly lack, despite [their position], in these proceedings".
Appeal queries the Spanish state solicitor
In the same text, Puigdemont's defence also contests the appeal presented by the Spanish public prosecutors, which asked to add the crime of aggravated public disorder to the case, as well as the appeal of the Spanish state solicitor, which also asked to incorporate this crime. The defence statement accuses both of them of seeking to retroactively apply a criminal law that was not in force at the time the events occurred.
In the case of the state solicitor, in addition, the defence text criticizes that the Spanish state's legal representative backs Llarena's decision to charge Puigdemont with the crime of misuse of public funds, after the submission from the same lawyer on the cases of the pro-independence politicians convicted in 2019, "takes a position diametrically opposed" to that of the judge.