Catalan leaders to remain in jail at least until Monday awaiting decision on their release
Spain's Attorney General to maintain request of preemptive imprisonment without bail for ministers and civil society leaders
The Spanish Supreme Court postponed the decision on whether to release the jailed Catalan leaders until Monday next week, according to investigative sources. Still, Spain's Attorney General maintained the request of preemptive imprisonment for the eight Catalan government members, as well as the two pro-independence civil society leaders.
The ten leaders were preemptively jailed for their role in Catalonia’s push for independence. They appeared before judge Pablo Llanera on Friday, who is expected to reassess the precautionary measures imposed when the accused were still being tried at the National Court. Llanera reportedly told defendants that the decision would not be made until Monday.
The hearing ended past 1pm, after all the hearings concluded. The accused did not answer Llanera’s questions, and only responded to their lawyers.
The highest-ranking incarcerated official, vice president Oriol Junqueras, was the first person to appear before the judge at 9:30am. His hearing lasted 20 minutes. Ministers Raül Romeva, Dolors Bassa, Joaquim Forn, Meritxell Borràs, Josep Rull and Jordi Turull came next, followed by grassroots leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sánchez.
Llanera could reassess the precautionary measures imposed by the National Court after taking over the case two weeks ago. So far, Llanera has dictated less severe measures than his counterpart at the National Court, Carmen Lamela: while Lamela sent ten people to jail, Llanera only imprisoned Catalan Parliament president Carme Forcadell, who was then released after paying a €150,000 bail.
All the government officials were dismissed by the Spanish government following a declaration of independence on October 27. They were subsequently accused of rebellion by Spain’s Attorney General — charges that carry a prison sentence of up to 30 years. On November 2, Lamela sent them to prison without the bail pending trial.
In the past days, defense attorneys presented allegations against the preemptive imprisonment arguing that the dismissed ministers no longer hold any office, and therefore there is no risk of them repeating the offenses. Additionally, the fact that many of them are running as candidates for pro-independence parties in the December 21 election should be seen as a proof that there is no risk of them posing a flight risk, attorneys said.
However, the Attorney General stressed that both flight risk as well as the possibility of them repeating the alleged crimes still exist, and therefore all the accused should remain behind bars.
"It’s obvious that they seek revenge when someone is obligated to deny their ideas or prevented from defending them"
Ester Capella · ERC MP at the Spanish Parliament
The defense attorney of Rull, Turull and Sánchez, Jordi Pina, stressed that "it's obvious that they are accepting the situation created by Article 155," because "otherwise they would not run in the election."
Yet, Inés Arrimadas, who was the opposition leader in Catalonia before the Parliament was dissolved by the Spanish government, said she did not trust pro-independence leaders to back off after being released. "If they govern, they’ll do the same again," she said. "And we’re used to seeing how they say different things when they’re before judges than when they’re in meetings or in the Catalan Parliament."
Ester Capella, an MP at the Spanish parliament for pro-independence ERC party, criticized the fact that pro-independence leaders had to abide by Article 155. "It’s obvious that they seek revenge when someone is obligated to deny their ideas or prevented from defending them," she said.
Civil society leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sánchez were imprisoned on October 16 for their role in the demonstrations that took place in Barcelona in the run-up to the independence referendum. They faced charges of sedition, among others, that carry sentences of up to 15 years in jail.
When he was sent to prison, Sánchez was the president of the Catalan National Assembly, one of the leading pro-independence organizations in Catalonia. He later resigned in order to join president Carles Puigdemont’s candidacy, Together for Catalonia, as the second candidate on the list.
Released before the campaign
If released, imprisoned Catalan leaders who are running on pro-independence tickets would be able to return to Catalonia from where they’re held, in the Madrid region, before the electoral campaign starts on December 5.
As Puigdemont and four other ministers are still in Belgium awaiting a decision on their extradition, Sánchez could become the highest-ranking figure on the ticket to run in the campaign from Catalonia.
Vice president Junqueras is the head of another pro-independence candidacy, ERC, which polls suggest could become the most voted party in Catalonia.