The Supreme Court has given its verdicts in the Catalan independence trial. And it has imposed heavy sentences for crimes of sedition, with penalties ranging from 9 to 13 years' prison. The most severe sentence goes to former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras, 13 years, followed by Catalan government ministers Raül Romeva, Jordi Turull and Dolors Bassa, with 12 years. Parliamentary speaker Carme Forcadell is sentenced to 11 and a half years. Two other ministers, Joaquim Forn and Josep Rull get 10 and a half years. And the leaders of the two major pro-independence groups, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart have been sentenced to nine years' prison. The court acquitted the three accused ministers who have been free on bail, Carles Mundó, Meritxell Borràs and Santi Vila, on the misuse of public funds charges they were facing and they won't go to jail. In order to justify the sedition convictions, the judges maintain that in the autumn of 2017 there was a "public and tumultuous uprising" in Catalonia.
In the context of the leaking of the Supreme Court's decisions that has occurred in recent days, the court brought forward its announcement of the verdicts, scheduled for noon, to 9.30am. In parallel, at 9.10am, three judicial secretaries arrived at the prisons of Lledoners, Puig de les Basses and Mas d'Enric with a USB drive containing the court rulings. At the prisons, the lawyers awaited the resolution along with the political prisoners. Except for one: Andreu van den Eynde, in Luxembourg, pending the European Court of Human Right's hearing this afternoon on the immunity of Oriol Junqueras as an elected member of the European Parliament.
It was, indeed, former Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras who received the heaviest sentence this morning, 13 years. He is one of the nine convicted for sedition, of whom four who were also adjudged to be guilty of misuse of public funds (Junqueras along with Raül Romeva, Jordi Turull and Dolors Bassa). Meanwhile, former ministers Santi Vila, Meritxell Borràs and Carles Mundó receive a 60,000 euro fine for a crime of disobedience. All 12 defendants have also been banned from holding public office for periods roughly matching their sentences.
Thus, the court presided over by Manuel Marchena has not condemned the defendants for rebellion, but for sedition with very severe sentences. The judges "accept as proven the existence of violence", but add that the "indisputable episodes of violence are not enough to proclaim that the actions constitute a crime of rebellion." In this regard, the Supreme Court holds that to prove rebellion "the violence must be instrumental, functional, and directly pre-ordered, without intermediate steps, towards the ends that motivate the action of the rebels."
On the other hand, the ruling argues that "all the defendants now being prosecuted were aware of the obvious legal impossibility of a referendum on self-determination that was presented as the route to the construction of the Republic of Catalonia." However, the court decision notes that "despite the rhetoric employed by the accused, it is true that, from the point of view of practice, the unfeasibility of the actions designed to carry out the promise of independence was manifest."
In their argument for sedition, the judges argue that "the political, individual or collective defence" of independence "does not constitute a crime." However, they add, a crime is constituted by "mobilizing citizenry in a public and tumultuous uprising that, in addition, prevents the application of laws and prevents compliance with judicial decisions."
"No European constitution endorses the right to decide"
In the face of the defence argument that the unity of Spain is overprotected, the ruling argues that "the protection of the territorial unity of Spain is not an extravagance that distinguishes our constitutional system", but rather "almost all European constitutions include precepts aimed at strengthening the integrity of the territory on which their respective states are based."
Similarly, the judges say that there is no international treaty that "codifies the right to decide", and it is not included in any European constitution.
The court's narrative of the facts which it considers proven begins by stating that on 8th September, 2017, the Catalan government's official gazette published its Catalan Law 20/2017 for the legal and foundational transition of the Republic, which was presented as the supreme norm of the Catalan legal system, until the constitution of the new Republic could be approved. It proclaimed that Catalonia was constituted as a Republic under law, democratic and social, with its sovereignty residing in the people of Catalonia, and that of the Aran region residing in the Aranese people, from which all the powers of the State emanate, and it declared the constitutional monarchy to be abolished, converting the President of the Republic into the head of the Catalan state, who would be its highest representative.
The present High Court of Justice of Catalonia was transformed into the Supreme Court of Catalonia, a superior judicial body in all senses, which would be at the apex of the judicial organization of Catalonia. The ruling went on to outline Law 19/2017, dated September 6th, 2017, regulating the "so-called" referendum. "Both of these texts", state the judges' account, "which were followed by other regulations to develop them, were part of a strategy agreed by the main defendants. The purpose of this was to create apparent legal coverage that would make it possible for the citizenry to believe that when they deposited their vote they would be contributing to the founding act of the independent Republic of Catalonia."
Division of functions
The court ruling details the role of each one of the accused in carrying out their strategy from the parliamentary, executive and civil organs; it underlines that the presidents of the two major pro-independence civil groups, ANC and Òmnium, had an important role in the mobilization of citizens: "with this end and with the goal of achieving significant participation in the [1st October] consultation presented as the expression of the 'right to decide', the accused Jordi Sànchez Picanyol and Jordi Cuixart Navarro added their contribution to the accord. They were the respective leaders of the Catalan National Assembly (hereinafter ANC) and Òmnium Cultural (hereinafter, OC), citizen organizations that were placed by their two principal leaders at the service of political pressure that had been designed in concert with the rest of the accused."
The court sees the organization amongst all the defendants as proven. And it speaks of an agreement that involved a functional distribution among its protagonists. "Mrs Carme Forcadell Lluís was the speaker of Parliament, Mr Oriol Junqueras i Vies, was at that time vice president and minister of economy and finance, Mr Raül Romeva i Rueda, minister of foreign affairs ...; Josep Rull i Andreu, minister of territory and sustainability, Ms. Dolors Bassa i Coll, minister of labour..., Ms Meritxell Borràs i Solé, minister for governance..., and Mr Carles Mundó i Blanch, minister of justice. "
"Symbolic and ineffective declaration of independence"
With respect to October 1st, 2017, the court details the whole process of the calling of the referendum, how it was organized and what was intended to happen straight afterwards. And it also details that a symbolic declaration of independence was made and that all the legal requirements were neglected: "This symbolic and ineffective declaration of independence was the outcome of a legislative process that was developed in open and continuous opposition to all the requirements formulated by the Constitutional Court which, repeatedly, warned, through personal notifications addressed to the accused, about the illegality of the initiatives that were being promoted. These notifications were ignored, as was the effective suspension which, by legal requirement, was produced with respect to the acts of the parliament that had been challenged before the Constitutional Court by the government of Spain."
"The Catalan government's senior legal counsel and the secretary general of the Catalan Parliament expressed in their respective reports that the admission to parliamentary processing of the two bills was contrary to the ban on such action under Constitutional Court resolutions... and violated explicitly-stated rulings which prevented or paralyzed any initiative that involved ignoring or circumventing the invalidity of the parliamentary resolutions that these new bills developed." The court's document says that all proposals contrary to the constitutional order should have been admitted for processing and then paralyzed by the Bureau of Parliament, which did not ignore the multiple warnings and personal demands of the Constitutional Court.
20th September, 2017 and the "decisive contribution of the Jordis"
The sentence explains that in the different "roadmaps" of the supposed path of independence, the defendants Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez had a "decisive contribution to the goals established". Thus, the court accepts as proven that on September 20th, 2017, these two defendants, with unquestioned leadership capacity and in close contact with the Catalan political leaders, "called the population to appear outside the headquarters" of the Catalan economy ministry. "This summoning of people was verified through their own Twitter accounts and the organizations they led. The reason was that the agents of the Civil Guard's judicial police group for Barcelona, by order of Barcelona court of instruction number 13, had carried out a series of arrests and had begun to execute the judicial decision that had been made to search the facilities of the ministry...".
"The call for people to gather not only publicized that a Civil Guard action was taking place which was attempting to prevent the referendum, but disclosed the place where the judicial search was taking place, urged citizens to defend the Catalan institutions, demanded that the Civil Guard release the people who had been arrested, and asked Catalans to mobilize. Encouragement was given by saying that they would be incapable [of acting] in the face of [all of the people], that the forces of order were mistaken and that they had declared war on those who they wanted to vote," the court adds.
The court is slightly critical of the Catalan Mossos police on September 20th: "Solely under the protection of the small number of Mossos d'Esquadra who are responsible everyday for the ordinary supervision of access to the building, who received no reinforcement during the day, except for the arrival of agents of mediation, the events took place with the presence of a figure close to 40,000 demonstrators, who formed crowds in an atmosphere in which protest chants, against the presence of the judicial commission, coexisted with festive acts, some spontaneous, others, promoted by the organizers". "The security perimeter that the judicial commission demanded was not put in place, so that, in order to pass among the thousands of demonstrators gathered there was no other access than a narrow human corridor that only allowed passage in single file, and that was not a police-controlled cordon, but was rather formed by the volunteers of the very body who called the protest - the ANC - who wore vests identifying that they belonged to this organization," it adds.
And it blames the citizen mobilization for the absence of the arrested officials in the search due to the strength of the crowd, and stating that the judges and prosecutors [carrying out the search] had lost their ability to execute their resolutions. "The mobilization prevented the Civil Guard from bringing into the building the [government officials] who had been arrested, who were to be present during the search, as was provided for in the procedural laws. It also prevented the court order from being executed with full normality. The Civil Guard vehicles, three Nissan Patrol, (...) and four camouflaged vehicles (...) all ended up with serious damage."
"Only at about midnight was it possible to prepare an exit route so that the court lawyer of Barcelona court number 13 was able to leave the place safely, by hiding her among the audience members leaving the theatre located in the adjacent building, which she had to be given access to via the building rooftops. The rest of the Civil Guard office were able to leave when the demonstration had already been dissolved, specifically doing so in two shifts, one at 4am on September 21st, and the other at 7am on the same date," it concludes.