MP disqualified from public office for 6 months over yellow ribbons to appeal ruling

Pro-independence CUP's Pau Juvillà found guilty of disobedience for not removing symbols during electoral period but speaker will not remove his seat

CUP MP Pau Juvillà in Lleida (by Laura Cortés)
CUP MP Pau Juvillà in Lleida (by Laura Cortés) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

December 14, 2021 02:00 PM

Pro-independence MP and Parliament Bureau member Pau Juvillà, of far-left CUP, has been found guilty of disobedience by Catalonia's High Court (TSJC), for which he has received a 6-month disqualification from public office and €1,080 fine. 

He will file an appeal to the decision before the Supreme Court because the sentencing is not final. Yet, the Spanish electoral authority could order the provisional removal of his seat, as it did when the former president Quim Torra was disqualified after a similar case

In January 2020, the then parliament speaker Roger Torrent, member of pro-independence Esquerra party, accepted removing Torra's seat, who had run for rivaling pro-independence Junts. 

Now, shortly after the TSJC decision on Tuesday, the current parliament leader, Junts' Laura Borràs, said she will not allow the removal of Juvillà's seat until the Supreme Court has its say, even if the electoral board orders it. 

"I have no powers or will to withdraw his or any other MP's seats, and will act preserving their rights and freedoms," said Borràs, responding to Juvillà calling on those in favor of a split with Spain to disobey any electoral board ruling.

Junts and Esquerra have been sharing the Catalan government for three and a half years, but have been repeatedly clashing since they became cabinet partners on the strategy ahead in the path to independence. While the former advocates for a "peaceful, intelligent confrontation" with Spain, the latter prioritizes dialogue and a thaw between cabinets. The members of current Junts (which was founded in November 2017) and Esquerra led Catalonia to hold an independence referendum in October 2017 despite it not being authorized by Spain. 

CUP's Juvillà case

Juvillà's case dates back to the 2019 municipal election period, when Juvillà was a Lleida city council member, and he failed to remove yellow ribbons from the CUP office in the Lleida city council. 

Since late 2017 following the referendum deemed illegal by Spain, yellow ribbons have come to signal solidarity with the formerly jailed independence leaders as well as those who have moved abroad to avoid being prosecuted for their actions. 

Ciudadanos, a center-right party that is staunchly against splitting with Spain and that used to be Catalonia's largest opposition party, lodged a complaint against Juvillà with the Electoral Board for displaying what they described as partisan symbols during an electoral period. Despite this, on April 3, 2019, the then-councilor refused to take them down in an act of defiance that led to disobedience charges. The yellow ribbons were eventually taken down by Mossos d'Esquadra police officers. 

The public prosecutor had requested an 8-month disqualification from public office as well as a €1,440-fine.

Because Juvillà became an MP in the Catalan Parliament following the February 14 elections, the case had to be tried in the High Court. 

Former president disqualified over yellow ribbons

Juvillà is not the first politician to face a similar sentence due to yellow ribbons; in fact, former Catalan president Quim Torra was twice charged with disobedience for hanging symbols in solidarity with pro-independence figures from the government headquarters in Barcelona during election campaign periods.

In September 2020, Spain's Supreme Court upheld the December 2019 Catalan High Court ruling disqualifying Torra for 18 months, the first yellow ribbon ruling against him, effectively removing him from office and handing the presidency to then-vice president Pere Aragonès.