Public Prosecution Director might not file complaint against Catalan President over independence vote
After days of controversy, the Director of Spain's Public Prosecution Office, Eduardo Torres-Dulce, suggested that a judicial complaint against the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, might not be filed because the case "is already at court". The People's Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government, had announced that the Public Prosecution Office would file a complaint against Mas and some Catalan Ministers for having authorised November 9's symbolic vote on independence. Such an announcement seriously questions the separation of powers in Spain. On top of this, several Catalonia-based prosecutors protested over the Spanish Government's pressures. Torres-Dulce, who is appointed by the Spanish Government, decided to wait and meet on Wednesday with his delegate in Catalonia. They agreed to further analyse the case and make the decision in Catalonia. Such a legal step against Mas could provoke a boomerang effect against Madrid, mobilising a wide part of Catalonia's society.
Barcelona (ACN).- After days of speculation and controversy, the Director of Spain's Public Prosecution Office, Eduardo Torres-Dulce, suggested on Friday that a judicial complaint against the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, might not be filed in the end because "it is not necessary" since the case "is already at court". The People's Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government, had announced on Monday and Tuesday that the Public Prosecution Office, whose head is appointed by the Spanish Government, would file a complaint against Mas and some Catalan Ministers for having authorised and organised November 9's symbolic vote on independence in public venues despite the temporary suspension of the Constitutional Court. The PP's announcement seriously questions the separation of powers in Spain, since a political party should not disclose future actions of the Public Prosecution Office. On top of this, several prosecutors based in Catalonia protested over the Spanish Government's pressures and interference and the progressive association of judges Asociación de Jueces por la Democracia seriously questioned the legal basis for such a complaint. Torres-Dulce, who reports directly to the Spanish Minister of Justice, was ready to present the complaint on Tuesday but, considering the controversy, he decided to wait and meet on Wednesday with his delegate in Barcelona, José María Romero de Tejada, who is the head of the Public Prosecution Office in Catalonia and reports directly to him. After such a meeting, they agreed to take things more calmly and further analyse the case. In addition, they decided to put the case in the hands of the team based in Catalonia, which should make the final decision, instead of filing the complaint from Madrid. Such a legal step against the Catalan President would have probably provoked a boomerang effect against the Spanish Government, since it would have launched a wave of solidarity with Mas among a wide part of Catalonia's society. On Friday, after 5 days of controversy, Torres-Dulce denied having been at all pressured by the Spanish Government, although many journalists’ articles published over the last few days suggest otherwise. In addition, the Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, asked for "respect" for "the autonomy" of the Public Prosecution Office, after several leading voices of her party had been announcing the complaint or publicly asking Torres-Dulce to act fast.
The days immediately after 2.3 million Catalans symbolically and peacefully cast a vote about independence from Spain in a non-binding citizen participation process, the Spanish authorities have not made any concessions and, on the contrary, they have strengthened their total opposition to Catalonia's self-determination and to a negotiated way out to the current political conflict. The governing PP and the Spanish Government have repeated on many occasions that they reject any sort of negotiation about Catalonia's right to self-determination and about holding a mutually-agreed vote on independence. Furthermore, they suggest that Catalan parties promote a Constitutional Reform but at the same time they announce they will block such a reform, which they even refuse to discuss if it explicitly includes the right to self-determination. However, the PP has also mobilised the Spanish State's institutions to fight the self-determination demands, taking ownership of the public institutions.
On Sunday, a few minutes after the polls had closed, the Spanish Justice Minister, Rafael Catalá, stated that Catalonia's symbolic vote had been "useless" and "a pure act of propaganda", which does not have any democratic validity. He also recalled that the Public Prosecution Office had been "gathering data" in order "to launch the required legal actions". On Monday the PP's Secretary General, María Dolores de Cospedal, promised a legal reaction from the Spanish authorities. On top of this, the PP's leader at the European Parliament, Esteban González Pons, announced that the Catalan President would receive a letter from the Public Prosecution Office and that "many directors of high-schools" and "civil servants" will have "to answer to justice". Furthermore, on Tuesday, the PP's leader in Catalonia, Alícia Sánchez-Camacho, announced that Torres-Dulce would file a complaint on that very same day.
Separation of powers in Spain doesn't seem guaranteed
Such statements made by leading members of the party chaired by Mariano Rajoy – who is also the Spanish Prime Minister – seriously question the independence and autonomy of the Public Prosecution Office. Furthermore, they come after the Constitutional Court deepened its legitimacy crisis after rushing to accept the Spanish Government's appeal against the original consultation vote on November 9 but not rushing at all to decide on the Catalan Government's appeal regarding the participatory process. In the first case the Court rushed to prevent a vote that was meant to take place 5 weeks after; in the second case they did not rush to debate on the appeal against a suspension approved 5 days before the participatory process was meant to take place and they decided to meet again two weeks after the vote.
Many parties in Catalonia were outraged by the PP's announcing the future actions for the Public Prosecution Office, since this creates a worrying insecurity and a potential lack of legal guarantees. The Spanish Government was certain that the Public Prosecutor Office would file the complaint, and it openly said so. In a similar way, the Spanish Government was also certain that the Constitutional Court would suspend the original consultation vote and the alternative participatory process that was launched afterwards, and it openly said so on manifold occasions.
Torres-Dulce and the Spanish Government deny pressures
On Friday, the Spanish Deputy Prime Minister and member of the PP, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, denied having pressured the Public Prosecutor Office to file the complaint. However, anonymous prosecutors based in Catalonia told journalists that they had been pressured, as was reported by several media, including the Barcelona-based newspaper 'La Vanguardia'. On top of this, on Thursday, the PP's spokesperson in the Spanish Parliament's Constitutional Committee, Pedro Gómez de la Serna, asked the Public Prosecutor to act "in a fast way". However, on Friday, Torres-Dulce – appointed by the Spanish Government and reporting to the Spanish Minister of Justice – denied any pressure and he insisted on the independence of the office he directs. Furthermore, after the spectacle performed by the PP in the last few days, Sáenz de Santamaría asked "the other State and public powers" to show "the same respect that as that for the [Spanish] Government has" to the "autonomy" of the Public Prosecutor Office, shifting the blame.