With the Catalan trial over, what now?

Supreme Court has to decide on jailed leaders' future with sentencing possibly due in early fall; verdict expected to have big impact in Catalan politics

Image of the courtroom in the Supreme Court with the lawyers, prosecutors of judges of the Catalan trial on December 18, 2018 (by EFE)
Image of the courtroom in the Supreme Court with the lawyers, prosecutors of judges of the Catalan trial on December 18, 2018 (by EFE) / Guifré Jordan

Guifré Jordan | Barcelona

June 13, 2019 04:43 PM

The Catalan trial is now over pending a sentence, right?

Yes – finally! It lasted 52 sessions spanning four months, in which we heard cross-examinations of the 12 prosecuted leaders, 422 witnesses and a handful of experts. We've also seen hundreds of videos of the 2017 independence bid, and heard the closing arguments from all lawyers and the defendants themselves.

So when will the verdict be out?

Well, after so many sessions, it would be a little unrealistic to expect the seven Spanish Supreme Court judges to have it ready before the summer break. There is no judicial activity in August, so the verdict is expected in September or October.

We'll see. Can you remind me of the requested sentences again?

The public prosecutor requests up to 25 years for each of the defendants charged with rebellion and misuse of public funds, with the solicitor general asking for up to 12 years for the charge of sedition.

Rebellion, sedition… Both kind of imply violence, but have these allegations been proved in court?

That's the key to the whole trial – was there any violence? The prosecution and the defense have diametrically opposing views, with the former claiming it was a coup d'état, and the latter arguing for peaceful protests. The prosecution has basically used the statements from Spanish police officers to support their arguments, while the defense has the testimony of some of the protesters ahead of the referendum and voters on October 1. The defense lawyers are calling for their clients to acquitted.

Can the verdict be challenged?

The sentence will be final, but the defense lawyers can still take the case to Spain's Constitutional Court, and then if necessary to the European courts. An alternative to sentencing would be for the Spanish government to grant them pardons.

What will be the impact of the sentence?

It depends on what it looks like! In Catalonia, a harsh sentence will be seen as a dissuasive punishment for the leaders, and the whole independence camp. Yet the prosecuted officials also suggested that the verdict could be an opportunity for resolving the conflict by returning the issue to the sphere of politics. "Generations to come will depend on this verdict, which has the potential to provide a solution," said former minister Dolors Bassa in her closing remarks.

Ok, ok, but… in the short term, what will happen after the sentence?

If there's a guilty verdict, mass demonstrations rejecting the sentences. That's for sure.

Not very original, is it?

The Catalan president has already said he will "not accept" a guilty verdict, but has not made clear what this will mean exactly. He said he will try to reach consensus with the parliament in order to provide a united response. He is already meeting with some parties to reach a united position within the independence camp to provide a "collective response."

Mm. Playing poker until the verdict?

Kind of. The response might include a snap election… or the president could even call a second referendum! Can you imagine?

Oh! Could this really happen?

Well, President Torra and the mainstream pro-independence parties continue calling on Spain's leaders to negotiate an agreed referendum, but this is very unlikely to happen. Activist Jordi Cuixart said in his closing remarks yesterday: "We'll do it again." And the president repeated that message shortly afterwards.

Well, step by step – anything that might happen related to the case from today until the verdict?

The defenses again requested the release of their clients. Jordi Cuixart's lawyers already did that right after the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called for their release two weeks ago.

What if they are unsuccessful?

In that case, they are expected to ask to be transferred to Catalan prisons, as they won't need to attend the Supreme Court in Madrid again until the day of the verdict.

And one of them is waiting to see if he can take up his seat as an MEP, right?

Yes – Oriol Junqueras was elected an MEP and has requested permission to go through all the steps to become an MEP and attend the inauguration of the EU parliament in Strasbourg, on July 2. The prosecutor is against it, the solicitor general is in favor, but it is the judges who will decide on it soon.