Ex-parliament speaker on trial for disobedience says 'no debate should be prohibited' in chamber

Four former bureau members face up to 20-month disqualifications and €30,000 fines

Former parliament speaker Roger Torrent testifying as accused in his disobedience trial, October 2022
Former parliament speaker Roger Torrent testifying as accused in his disobedience trial, October 2022 / Catalan High Court stream

ACN | @agenciaacn | Barcelona

October 7, 2022 07:25 PM

October 7, 2022 08:48 PM

Former parliament speaker and current business minister Roger Torrent, who was charged with disobedience for allowing MPs to vote on motions on the monarchy and self-determination that were deemed unlawful, argued in court on Friday that "no debate should be prohibited" in the chamber.

According to him, neither he nor the other three former parliament bureau members who were tried in Catalonia's High Court, Adriana Delgado, Eusebi Campdepadrós, and Josep Costa, were informed by legal advisers that they needed to halt the procedures.

He said he was informed of the "existence" of the Constitutional Court's statements, but that they "expressed doubts" as to whether the motions that were voted on went against these decisions. 

Delgado and Campdepadrós also testified on Friday - Costa, on the other hand, walked out of what he called "sham" proceedings the day before after declaring that a court with a portrait of the king on the wall to be impartial. 

"My intention was not to disobey the Constitutional Court," Delgado stated. "I was protecting the right of political representation, freedom of expression, and the sovereignty of the parliament as well as the separation of powers."

Campdepadrós was the last of the three to testify on Friday and argued the Constitutional Court was "overstepping" its authority by telling the Catalan parliament what motions they could or could not vote on. He also said he was "offended" he had been accused of disobedience as "all decisions were made in following with the law and to preserve the political rights of MPs, pluralism, free debate, and freedom of expression." 

According to Campdepadrós, the Constitutional Court did not issue any "warnings," but rather "expressed their doubts."

The defendants have finished providing evidence and now the High Court judges must reach a verdict. 

Up to 20-month disqualifications

The court announced in March 2021 that it was admitting a criminal lawsuit from Spain’s public prosecutor against Torrent and three of his former colleagues at the chamber’s bureau.

Prosecutors are requesting 1 year and 8 months of disqualification and €30,000 fines for Torrent, Costa, and Campdepadrós, while 1 year and 4 months and €24,000 is requested for Delgado.  

Costa was briefly arrested last year for not attending a pre-trial hearing. 

Anti-monarchy and self-determination motions

Torrent is accused of contravening Spain’s Constitutional Court and authorizing votes that on motions were deemed unlawful.

The motions were passed on November 12, 2019, with subsequent amendments on November 26. They were backed by pro-independence parties, holding a majority of seats in the chamber.

One of the texts stressed that parliament "reiterates and will reiterate as many times as MPs choose the disapproval of the monarchy, the defense of self-determination and the affirmation of the sovereignty of the people of Catalonia to decide their political future."

The second one saw the chamber accusing Spain's Constitutional Court of "censorship" on self-determination and criticism of monarchy discussions.

During the debate on the second motion, unionist Ciutadans announced that their party would take the passed motion to the prosecutor's office. "You are the champions of disobedience," said the then-leader of the party, Lorena Roldán.

In November 2019, the Constitutional Court had already partly suspended the motion, warning the parliament and the members of its bureau, who at the time were under speaker Roger Torrent, of the criminal consequences of not complying with its rulings.

"The judicial system is more worried to go after freedoms than to guarantee them," Torrent tweeted after it was announced in March 2022 that he and his colleagues would face trial.

If the four are ultimately found guilty of disobedience, they could face a ban from public office, joining a long list of Catalan officials sacked for their role in the independence push, including former president Quim Torra and members of the cabinet that called a referendum and attempted to break away from Spain in 2017.