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100 days in prison

Catalan leaders Oriol Junqueras and Joaquim Forn have been denied bail as judge argues they still keep plans for an independent Catalonia

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10 February 2018 11:22 AM

by

ACN | Barcelona

Two of the main political figures of the sacked Catalan government have already been in pre-trial prison for 100 days. Vicepresident Oriol Junqueras and Home Affairs Minister Joaquim Forn are behind bars since November 2. They have both been denied bail by the Spanish Supreme Court, facing the same fate as pro-independence activists Jordi Sànchez, now an MP, and Jordi Cuixart. The activists have been in prison even longer, 115 days. They all face up to 30 years in jail for alleged crimes of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds, amongst others. On Saturday evening, hundreds gathered in Junqueras local town, Sant Vicenç dels Horts, to protest against their imprisonment. 

Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena argues that they keep their plans for an independent Catalonia and they risk committing the same offences again –and that's why, according to him, they should not be released. This, although Joaquim Forn has even given up his seat in Parliament and they all have refused unilateral means to achieve independence. In a recent ruling to keep one of them in jail, the judge argued that the accused “maintains his pro-independence ideology”. 

Five other ministers were released on bail in December, and face the same charges, while five more are in Belgium, including Catalan President Carles Puigdemont.

In this article, Catalan News reviews the events of the last 120 days in Catalonia.

A big case against independence supporters

On October 16, Spain’s National Court preemptively imprisoned Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, the presidents of two civil society organizations that had a leading role in calling mass pro-independence demonstrations in recent years. Spain’s Attorney General—who filed the charges in the first place—accused them of urging protesters to block a police operation aimed at thwarting the logistics of the forthcoming October 1 referendum.

The referendum went ahead anyway, although Spanish police tried to stop it by force. Almost 1,000 people were injured in polling stations due to the actions of riot police. Images of police agents beating up voters and throwing away ballot boxes were seen around the world, especially because a lot of international journalists were on site to report live about the referendum.

The Spanish government minister of Foreign Affairs, Alfonso Dastis, said to the BBC that images of police violence in Catalonia were "fake news". However, international organizations such as Human Rights Watch released independent reports condemning police violence and urging an independent investigation of the events.

The case against government officials

Sànchez and Cuixart, the two activists who are still held behind bars, became the first in a long list of jailed Catalan leaders. On October 27, after calls for negotiations with the Spanish government failed and no international mediation was accepted by Madrid, Catalan Parliament declared independence. Immediately after, the Spanish government took control of the Catalan administration, de facto suspending self-rule in the country, and sacked the full cabinet.

On October 31, President Carles Puigdemont and some of his ministers gave a press conference in Brussels and said they wanted to internationalize their case. They argued that the Spanish government attitude was undemocratic. Some of Puigdemont ministers stayed with him in Brussels –others, travelled back to Catalonia. On November 1, most of them got summoned to Spain's National Court for the next day. Those in Brussels asked to testify by videoconference, but that option was rejected.

On November 2, the court imprisoned seven government members who, unlike President Carles Puigdemont, personally testified before court. Although most of them were released on bail after about a month behind bars, vice president Oriol Junqueras and Home Affairs minister Joaquim Forn have been in prison for 100 days now.

In order to get Puigdemont and the other ministers in Brussels extradited to Spain, the National Court issued a European arrest warrant on November 4. Their judicial case became top news in Belgium and around the world. The Belgian judge was expected to give make his ruling public on December 4, but Spain dropped the arrest warrant. Therefore, now Puigdemont and his four ministers in Brussels are free to travel around the EU, but could be arrested if they set foot in Spain, where there is still a national arrest warrant against them.

Case broadened

Six Catalan Parliament bureau members are also being investigated for allowing the contested declaration of independence on October 27, which put the referendum results into effect. All are free on bail. The former head of the chamber, Carme Forcadell, was released on €150,000 bail after spending a night in prison.

In December, judge Llarena broadened the case to include six politicians with a prominent role in Catalan politics, such as former president Artur Mas. Marta Rovira, Junqueras’ second in command in the Esquerra Republicana party, is also being investigated, as are Anna Gabriel and Mireia Boya, two former MPs for the far-left CUP party. Marta Pascal, the PDeCAT's leader, is also investigated, along with Neus Lloveras, a former MP for the same party.

Boya is summoned to appear in court on February 14, while Rovira and Pascal will testify on the Spanish Supreme Court on February 19, with Mas and Neus Lloveras the day after. Gabriel will do it on February 21.

 

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  • Catalan Home Affairs minister Joaquim Forn (by Bernat Vilaró)
  • Protesters urge the release of Catalan prisoners (by Roger Segura)
  • Catalan politicians protest against the imprisonment of Oriol Junqueras (by ACN)
  • The Catalan vice president, Oriol Junqueras on October 31, 2017 (by Rafa Garrido)