Jailed Catalan leaders give up on unilateral path to independence
Grassroots leaders Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, as well as minister Joaquim Forn, appeared before the Spanish Supreme Court on Thursday
Three imprisoned Catalan leaders rejected achieving independence unilaterally on Thursday, as they appeared before the Spanish Supreme Court in a review of the case for which they were preemptively jailed more than two months ago.
Grassroots leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sánchez, as well as home affairs minister Joaquim Forn, were summoned after they asked to be released. In a major turnaround since the Catalan Parliament declared independence on October 27—a move which prompted the Spanish government to take over Catalan institutions—the jailed leaders are giving up on unilateral means to achieve independence, according to judicial sources.
Sànchez, the former president of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), was the first to appear in court. In a two-hour long hearing, he told judge Pablo Llarena that he would step down as an MP if a unilateral path is once again pursued—as, in fact, did Forn. Sànchez also recognized that the October 1 referendum on independence was illegal according to Spanish law.
With only a week to go before the Catalan Parliament’s opening session following the December 21 election, neither Sànchez nor Forn know yet whether they will be able to take their seat as MPs for Together for Catalonia. Sànchez left his post as ANC head while in prison in order to join Catalan president Carles Puigdemont’s pro-independence ticket as the number two candidate.
Cuixart told Llarena that the only valid independence referendum in Catalonia would be one called by the Spanish government. He also ruled out joining politics and said that acting unilaterally is not the means to achieve independence.
Sànchez and Cuixart were sent to pre-trial prison on October 16, after being charged with "sedition" for promoting a rally outside the Catalan economy department while it was being raided by Spanish police on September 20. While Sànchez acknowledged that some acts of vandalism occurred, he insisted they were not violent. Cuixart restated his "profoundly peaceful convictions."
Sànchez and Cuixart’s defense presented videos of the September 20 protests. In the footage, the two civil society leaders can be seen asking demonstrators to stay calm, to isolate those who display violent behaviour, as well as eventually asking people to leave the place.
Forn subsequently dismissed accusations against the Catalan police, the Mossos d'Esquadra, for being passive and ignoring judicial orders on referendum day and in the days that preceded it.
Forn was jailed on November 2, some days after the independence declaration, along with six other deposed Catalan ministers, accused of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds. Six of the members of the Catalan government, all of them dismissed by the Spanish government, were released on bail on December 4, while Forn and deposed vice president Oriol Junqueras are still in pre-trial detention. Along with Cuixart and Sànchez, Forn and Junqueras are the only Catalan leaders still in prison.
In a previous hearing held on January 5, the Spanish Supreme Court ordered Junqueras to remain behind bars. Spain’s Attorney General asked for him to be kept in prison, in the belief that Junqueras did not “renounce illegal means” to achieve his political goals. It was the second time that the Supreme Court had turned down the vice president’s plea to be let out on bond.
Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena summoned former Catalan ministers Jordi Jané, Jordi Baiget, Neus Munté and Boi Ruiz as witnesses. All of them resigned from their posts before the political crisis between the governments in Barcelona and Madrid reached a tipping point in the fall, when the Catalan government went ahead with a referendum on independence despite Spain’s opposition.
Llarena also summoned Diego Pérez de los Cobos, a Guardia Civil colonel, designated by the Spanish government to coordinate all law enforcement agencies on October 1. Former Catalan police director, Albert Batlle, has also been summoned.