Four Catalan pro-independence leaders will remain banned from holding public office, Spain’s Supreme Court said on Monday, despite a legal reform pushed through by Spain’s minority coalition government between the PSOE socialists and left-wing Podemos group.
Nine Catalan politicians and activists were jailed for between 9-13 years by the Spanish Supreme Court in October 2019, convicted of sedition and misuse of public funds for their role in the October 2017 illegal referendum, with the verdicts causing widespread protests across Catalonia. In June 2021, the nine walked free from prison, following pardons granted by the government led by socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, but they remained banned from holding public office.
Just before Christmas, Spain passed a controversial criminal code reform that downgraded the two charges used against them, abolishing sedition and reducing the penalty for misuse of public funds.
Critics and opposition parties said the changes were aimed at courting support from Catalan independence groups ahead of a general election due by the year’s end.
On Monday the Supreme Court lifted the bans from public office for five of the leaders convicted for the 2017 referendum – former parliament speaker Carme Forcadell, former ministers Josep Rull and Joaquim Forn, and activists Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart.
Four others, however, remain banned from public office, including former Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras, head of the left-wing Esquerra Republicana (ERC) party that heads the Catalan government (with Pere Aragonès as president) and offers parliamentary support to the central government of sociliast Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. Junqueras will be banned from office until 2030.
Jordi Turull, secretary general of the Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) party will remain disqualified until 2031. Former Catalan ministers Raül Romeva and Dolors Bassa, both members of ERC, will also have to see out their bans until 2030 and 2031, respectively.
The controversial criminal code reform sparked fierce opposition from Spain’s right-wing opposition but also from some of Sánchez’s own socialists who have denounced him for giving into pro-independence demands.
Since taking over in June 2018, Sánchez has adopted a strategy of ‘defusing’ the Catalonia conflict which threw Spain into its worst political crisis in decades, maintaining dialogue with the moderate separatists and pardoning those involved in the independence bid.
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