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Spain's most senior judge, Carlos Lesmes, had complaints for all the politicians this morning at the annual ceremony to open the judicial year in Madrid. After demanding an urgent meeting between Pedro Sánchez and Alberto Núñez Feijóo to unblock the long-overdue renovation of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), judge Lesmes, far from distancing himself from the political sphere, stepped right into the mire of the negotiations between the Catalan and Spanish executives at their dialogue table. The judge, president of both the Supreme Court and the CGPJ, criticised the discourse that backs the de-judicialization of the Catalan conflict: "There is a risk that a flight from the law will end up occurring or, what is even more serious, from the principle of equality in its application". In the ceremonial event chaired by Spanish king Felipe VI this Wednesday, Lesmes lashed out at certain political sectors and regretted that they talk about "running away from the judges" in relation to Catalonia "as if [the judges] were the ones who had caused conflicts with their actions in defence of legality"

President CGPJ Tribunal Suprem Carlos Lesmes / Efe
Carlos Lesmes defended the action of Spanish justice in autumn 2017 / Photo: EFE

Lesmes recalls the events of 2017

With exactly five years having gone by since the Catalan Parliament passed the laws of disconnection from Spain, just ahead of the 1st October referendum, the chief justice expressed his pride in the judicial actions taken in the autumn of 2017. "The strength of our rule of law and the subsequent action of the judges following the complaints presented by the senior public prosecutor served to preserve our social coexistence and guarantee the primacy of our constitution", he asserted. For Lesmes, who has now been president of the CGPJ for nine years, the judges of Spain have helped the "gradual and noteworthy" improvement in the image that citizens have of the judiciary. Lesmes criticized that there are political sectors that talk about "running away from the judges" in relation to Catalonia "as if they were the ones who had caused the conflicts with their actions in defence of legality".

Also reprimanded: Pablo Iglesias

The bad report card read by Lesmes also contained a rebuke for the former Spanish deputy preiem minister and ex-leader of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias. Without mentioning his name, the judge reprimanded "a political leader" for saying that the Spanish judiciary suffered a "humiliation" in the face of Belgium and Germany's refusal to extradite former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and other leaders of the independence process. As he put it, "perhaps this political leader was ignorant when he made such unfortunate statements that European law interprets in the last instance and with a binding character, through the European Court of Justice". Finally, he recalled that this EU court has still to resolve the preliminary question raised by Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena, arising from the European Arrest Warrants issued to seek the extradition of the exiled Catalan leaders. "The qualified opinion of the advocate general Richard de la Tour does not precisely corroborate this alleged humiliation of the Spanish justice system," he replied.