Trial on 2017 parliament bureau members for disobedience underway
20-month disqualification requested for five former MPs for permitting debates and votes on independence in chamber
The trial on the former Catalan parliament bureau members during the peak of the independence crisis, in 2017, began on Tuesday in Catalonia's high court (TSJC).
Former MPs Lluís Corominas, Ramona Barrufet, Lluís Guinó, and Anna Simó face possible 20-month disqualifications from public office conviction – but not jail – and 30,000 euro fines as requested by the public prosecutor, along with the former far-left CUP MP, Mireia Boya, who is also accused in the procedure.
While the solicitor general requests the same conviction for all of them – but with a slightly lower 24,000 euro fine for Boya –, far-right Vox party, which is acting as the private prosecutor in the trial, requests 12-year prison sentences for each of them, a 2-year disqualification and 3.2 million euro fines for each of them for criminal organization and disobedience charges.
Corominas, Barrufet, Guinó and Simó are in the dock for having allowed a debate and vote on several motions and bills related to the independence push.
While Barrufet and Simó were members of the parliament bureau for the entire 2015-2017 term, Corominas was replaced by Guinó in July 2017.
Meanwhile, Boya also faces the court for her contribution to the independence push that peaked in the October 1, 2017 referendum without Spain's permission and the declaration of independence in Parliament four weeks later – the also former MP Anna Gabriel is part of the case too, but she went into exile in Switzerland to avoid trial.
"Aware" of not complying with court's warnings
The public prosecutor accuses the four former bureau members of being "aware" of not complying with their duty to not accept certain parliamentary initiatives after several warnings from Spain's Constitutional Court.
The parliamentary procedures accepted ahead of the 2017 declaration of independence include a motion to begin a "constituent process" on November 9, 2015, the 2017 budget bill with spending for the referendum foreseen, and the referendum bill, passed between September 6 and 7, 2017.
"Right to political initiative"
The four bureau members appealed to similar arguments in their cross-examinations. They said that their role did not imply having parliamentary initiative, denied having taken part in writing any of the motions and bills in contention.
They also rejected failing to abide by the Constitutional Court's warnings and said they prioritized granting MPs their rights.
"Part of my duty in the parliament bureau was to protect the rights of representation, freedom of speech and political initiative of MPs," said Anna Simó.
They all reminded that the parliament bureau members did not sign the referendum law.
"We wanted to comply with the chamber rules and that MPs could exercise their rights," said Lluís Corominas, adding that the judiciary had always allowed "the parliamentary debate" before the independence push. "I don't think we disobeyed the Constitutional Court."
As for Mireia Boya, the only official answering not only to her lawyer but also to the public prosecutor, she made clear that the declaration of independence voted on October 27, 2017 was not symbolic, but intended to be effected - and for her, that is why Spain suspended Catalonia's self-rule soon afterwards.
In favor and against outside the court
Outside the court before the session began, some pro-independence officials supported the accused former MPs, including the current parliament speaker, Roger Torrent. The leader of ANC pro-independence civil group also attended.
"These cases will end up in international courts, and this will lead to a sentence for Spain and the annulment of these trials," she said to the press.
The leader of far-right Vox in Catalonia, Ignacio Garriga, also talked to the press. "Vox will fight until the end for freedom, the unity of Spain and to regain that Catalonia that has been kidnapped," he said.
More serious conviction for parliament speaker
Prison sentences are not being requested for the four former MPs by the public prosecutor, who did ask for 17 years behind bars on rebellion charges for the former parliament speaker, Carme Forcadell, the leader of that chamber's bureau.
Forcadell had a similar level of authority as her former colleagues, but was sentenced to 11.5 years on sedition charges in the end – her defense claimed that the requested conviction for her was not in line with those for Corominas, Guinó, Simó, and Barrufet.
The trial had been postponed three times, and the also parliament bureau member in 2017, Joan Josep Nuet, was part of the case. Yet, since he was elected MP in Congress last year, his trial will take place in the Supreme Court.
Apart from Nuet's trial, other judicial cases related to the independence push are open: the main case, regarding the jailed leading politicians and activists in jail, has been taken to the Constitutional Court, a branch of the case involving those who went into exile, some of whom are pending an extradition request, and a procedure on the referendum logistics involving some 30 officials and businesspeople.
Also, several cases are open against mayors and former mayors who allowed for the referendum to take place in their towns. The former Catalan police leadership, including Josep Lluís Trapero, is now awaiting sentencing.