Former parliament bureau members absolved of disobedience for anti-monarchy motions
Prosecutors had requested 20-month disqualification for ex-speaker Roger Torrent and others
The Catalan High Court has absolved Roger Torrent and other former members of the parliament bureau in their disobedience case.
Two out of the three magistrates found Torrent and the others not guilty, with one dissenting vote.
The prosecution had requested fines of €30,000 and 20-month disqualifications from public office for Torrent, Josep Costa and Eusebi Campdepadrós, and a €24,000 fine and a 16-month ban for Adriana Delgado, for disobeying the Constitutional Court and continuing to process parliamentary proposals for resolutions on self-determination and against the monarchy in autumn 2019.
Costa, who chose to defend himself, walked out in protest at the beginning of the trial because he does not recognize the legitimacy of the court, which he accused of acting irregularly.
Torrent celebrated his acquittal in a press conference from the Catalan parliament, declaring that the ruling "protects freedom of expression" and establishes a positive "precedent" for the chamber bureau.
"It cannot be the case that future parliament bureaus have to do their ordinary, regular, and absolutely necessary work under the permanent threat of judicialization of their activity," Torrent said.
"Justice has been served," the business minister said on Wednesday morning, before adding that the trial should "never have taken place" and that MPs should be able to exercise their "political rights without the permanent threat of prosecution."
According to the ruling, the members of the parliament bureau who were tried on October 5, 6 and 7 were found not to have committed the crime of disobedience because there was "a lack of a clear and specific mandate" in the Constitutional Court's rulings of October 2019.
Two out of three of the Catalan High Court judges considered that those rulings – warnings against going ahead with parliamentary debates and votes on the monarchy and self-determination – left room for "more than one interpretation."
The two-thirds majority of magistrates also believe that it has not been proven that the accused had knowledge of and wanted to disobey the Constitutional Court rulings.
In fact, they understand that the four defendants followed the instructions of the parliament secretary general of parliament and attorney general, positions that are not political, and note that the resolutions and votes in parliament on self-determination were "mere political proclamations about the future," but without the intention of further action.
In contrast, one of the three judges believed that the conduct of the defendants, in their capacity as members of the bureau and public officials, "can be described, without a doubt, as manifestly stubborn, obstinate, recalcitrant and persistent," and contrary to the Constitutional Court rulings. She also said that these "can in no way be accepted as being classified as vague or imprecise."
Appeal depite victory
Two of the accused – Costa and Campdepadrós intend to appeal the High Court judgement, despite being acquitted.
They want a higher court – Spain's Supreme Court or Constitutional Court, or even the European Court of Human Rights – to recognize the inviolability of the Catalan parliament and declare that its members cannot be tried for organizing debates.
After learning of the sentence, both were partially satisfied by their personal acquittals, but not by the fact that there was no guarantee of the parliamentary right to debate on issues that members choose.
Anti-monarchy and self-determination motions
Torrent and the others were accused of allegedly contravening Spain’s Constitutional Court and authorizing votes on motions in the parliament that 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 about going 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 had have been found guilty of disobedience, they would have joined 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.