Europe

Court finds Catalan president guilty of disobedience

Quim Torra could be removed from his post and barred from holding office for 18 months

Alyssa McMurtry   | 19.12.2019
Court finds Catalan president guilty of disobedience Newly elected Catalan regional president Quim Torra gives a speech during a session at the Catalan parliament in Barcelona on May 14, 2018. ( Lola Bou - Anadolu Agency )

OVIEDO, Spain

The Catalan president was found guilty of disobedience on Thursday by the Catalan High Court and disqualified from holding public office for a year and a half.  

Quim Torra will not be ejected from office immediately, as the separatist leader of the northeastern region of Spain can still appeal to the Spanish Supreme Court. The ruling does however stop him from running for office again in the case of fresh regional elections.

He was found guilty of disobedience for his refusal to take down yellow ribbons and unofficial Catalan flags from public buildings in the run-up to Catalan elections in March 2019. The ribbons and flags were considered pro-independence symbols and their display a violation of Spain's electoral laws.

The electoral board said independence symbols were "tools of political propaganda", giving Torra 48 hours to remove them. Ignoring the orders and admitting to disobedience while on trial, he was handed a €30,000 ($33,300) fine.

Meanwhile, the European Court of Justice on Thursday ruled that Oriol Junqueras, the region's former vice president, should have received immunity when elected Member of the European Parliament in May 2017.

At the the time, Junqueras was in detention pending trial for his role in the region's illegal 2017 independence referendum, and Spanish courts had refused to allow him to take his oath and taking up the post.

This year, Junqueras was sentenced to 13 years in jail for sedition. The preliminary ruling of the European Court does not necessarily mean he will be freed from jail, although his party is calling for his immediate release. It may also affect former president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, and other ex-counselors who were elected as European Parliament members in 2019 but currently in self-imposed exile in Belgium.

At least one spontaneous protest has broken out in Catalonia already, with more being organized for Thursday evening.

These rulings and protests come in the midst of delicate negotiations between the Socialist Party and Catalan independence parties. Separatist support is needed for Spain to form a progressive government, which is the plan of Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. If he is unable to gain their support, Spain could be thrown into the fifth round of elections in five years.

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