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Prosecutor launches criminal lawsuit against president Torra over yellow ribbon row

Catalan head of government accused of “disobedience" for defying Spain’s electoral authority orders to take down “partisan" symbols

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27 March 2019 01:14 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

The public prosecutor has launched a criminal lawsuit against Catalan president Quim Torra for “disobedience,” after he defied orders from Spain’s electoral authority requesting “partisan" symbols to be removed from the government headquarters.

Following instructions from Spain’s attorney general, the highest prosecutor in Catalonia accuses Torra of “repeatedly ignoring" petitions to take down yellow ribbons and other symbols in support of jailed and exiled pro-independence leaders.

The electoral authority's orders to remove the banners were issued after a complaint by the Ciutadans opposition party, which argued that they would prejudice the neutrality of institutions during the election campaign.

The initial debate centered on the yellow ribbon symbols in support of prosecuted leaders, but Torra's response of covering them up with white ribbons led the electoral authority to insist they also be removed.

Currently, the only banner hanging from the government headquarters’ façade reads: "Freedom of opinion and expression. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." So far, it hasn’t been challenged.

Should the legal proceedings prosper, president Torra could eventually be dismissed and barred from holding any public office, as the government spokesperson Meritxell Budó acknowledged in an interview with the Catalan public radio station on Thursday.

Torra's response

In response to the prosecutor's lawsuit against him, Torra launched his own criminal lawsuit against the Spanish electoral authority. The Catalan president argues that the authoritative board has breached official duty in demanding that he remove the "partisan" symbols from public buildings. 

In a statement, the president warned that it will take the case of the ban on yellow ribbons on public buildings "wherever it is necessary if the Kingdom of Spain does not want to investigate the facts."

One of the main arguments put forward by Torra's complaint is that he can not have committed a crime of disobedience until the request for precautionary measures had been resolved and added that the Spanish electoral authority "was changing the measures ordered based on the allegations."

Regarding the legal complaint made by the Supreme Prosecutor of Catalonia against him, Torra considers it a demonstration that "the repression does not stop."

The prosecution first ordered Torra to remove the yellow ribbons on March 11, and sent another demand a week later giving the Catalan president 24 hours to remove the ribbons and flags, and reminded him of potential “administrative and criminal” consequences to “ignoring” the mandate.

On March 21, Spain’s electoral authority then urged the interior minister to act on the “disobedience” of Torra. In replacing the symbols with others with a similar meaning, "can not be understood as an attempt at formal compliance and has no purpose other than to circumvent the requirements issued by this board," the electoral authority clarified.

Freedom of opinion and expression banner allowed

Later on Wednesday afternoon, the Spanish electoral authority conceded permission to Torra to keep the banner currently hanging in the Catalan government headquarters.

On Friday, March 22, the white ribbon banner that held the same message as the yellow ribbons were replaced with the banner in support of freedom of opinion and expression. 

In a meeting today, the electoral authority decided the banner did not violate any laws so it is allowed to remain, however, the government are not allowed to hang any other banner in support of the 'political prisoners' as these have already been deemed as "partisan."

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  • Two workers remove the banners on the balcony of the government HQ, March 22, 2019. (Photo: Miquel Codolar)

  • Two workers remove the banners on the balcony of the government HQ, March 22, 2019. (Photo: Miquel Codolar)

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