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Formerly exiled independence leader to face court for disobedience and misuse of public funds

Supreme Court ends investigation over Meritxell Serret’s role in the 2017 referendum

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06 May 2021 05:37 PM

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ACN|Barcelona

Formerly exiled independence leader Meritxell Serret is to be brought to trial over her involvement in the 2017 independence referendum in Catalonia, having been accused of disobedience and misuse of public funds.

The Supreme Court judge, Pablo Llarena, ended his inquiry and highlighted that she previously avoided trial because she was in Belgium, “in rebellious circumstances.” She did, however, return to Catalonia on March 11, 2021, and testify before the Court on April 30.

It is unknown whether the former Minister of Agriculture’s case will be tried in the Supreme Court or taken to Catalonia’s High Court, something the defense could request.

While charges for misuse of public funds carry a prison sentence, for disobedience, it is a fine and disqualification that follows conviction.

This comes despite the fact that the October 2019 verdict of the trial of the officials who remained in the country did not observe any referendum-related expenses coming from Serret's office.

MP for Esquerra after exile without international arrest warrant

Serret returned discreetly on March 11, driving past the Basque Country border, and went to the Supreme Court, in Madrid, before going to Catalonia.

"I am here because I maintain my commitment, I want to be an MP and exercise my political rights," she said outside the court that day.

In a statement, Serret added that she aims to "maintain the fight against the repression the independence camp is suffering and in favor of self-determination, doing politics from Catalonia and trying to pave the way for the return of the remaining political exiles."

Indeed, she had been elected a representative in Catalonia's February 14 election, after having been included in Esquerra's list of candidates at the eleventh hour, and is now a senior MP in Parliament.

Serret had been living in Brussels ever since the Catalan parliament declared independence in October 2017.

Unlike other exiled leaders such as Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín, and Clara Ponsatí, a European arrest warrant was not issued for her by Spain in the wake of the Catalan independence referendum trial verdict in October 2019. 

She did, however, face two previous extradition attempts, one of which was withdrawn by Spain's Supreme Court in December 2017 to avoid it being rejected by Belgium's courts, while the second was dismissed by Belgium for "formal errors."

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  • Former minister Meritxell Serret raising a fist as she leaves the Supreme Court in late March 2021 (by Andrea Zamorano)

  • Former minister Meritxell Serret raising a fist as she leaves the Supreme Court in late March 2021 (by Andrea Zamorano)

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