Spain’s Constitutional Court has rejected hearing an appeal lodged by the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and ex-health minister Toni Comín against the warrants for their arrest in Spain.
With most of the judges on vacation, two voted in favour of not hearing the appeal and another voted against the decision.
Some Spanish media have highlighted that the decision is ‘unprecedented’, with the online El Diario reporting that two Constitutional judges have ‘taken advantage of their conservative majority during the summer vacation to reject the appeals of Puigdemont and Comín’. The paper states that ‘the practice followed until now has been to admit appeals to analyse their content in detail — and to do so outside the plenary session’.
Constitutional Court sources said this decision had been taken due to the ‘evident non-existence of a violation of the fundamental right to protection’.
Puigdemont and Comín, who are both currently MEPs for the pro-independence Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) party, have been living in Belgium since late 2017 to evade prosecution for the referendum deemed illegal by Spain (see background to political conflict below).
The politicians were recently stripped of their parliamentary immunity in the EU but have until 15 September to appeal.
Spain’s Supreme Court confirmed in late July that it will not be issuing an arrest warrant for Puigdemont until the Court of the Justice of the European Union (CJEU) decides whether it will hear a potential appeal regarding his loss of parliamentary immunity, which could then be temporarily restored in the meantime.
Puigdemont’s party, JxCat, has become crucial as the potential kingmaker following Spain’s general election held on Sunday 23 July, as the results created a hung parliament. ALSO READ: With Sánchez and Feijóo both claiming victory in the election … what happens next?
Background to Catalan political conflict
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 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.
Late last year, Spain passed a controversial criminal code reform that downgraded the two charges used against them, abolishing sedition and replacing it with that of aggravated public disorder, and also reducing the penalty for misuse of public funds.
Misuse of public funds can carry prison time of between six months and up to five years if convicted, but disobedience only carries a disqualification from public office.
Click here for all our reports related to: Catalan independence.