Sedition charges dropped but misuse of funds and disobedience kept against Puigdemont
Supreme Court drops most serious charge after criminal code reform but some exiled independence leaders could still face prison time
The Spanish Supreme Court judge handling the case of the 2017 independence leaders has removed the charge of sedition from the accusations against those still in exile, but will keep misuse of public funds as well as disobedience.
Misuse of funds can carry prison time of between six months and up to five years if the politicians are convicted, but disobedience does not.
The court has dropped the most serious crime of sedition that former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, as well as other former officials Toni Comín, Clara Ponsatí, Lluís Puig, and Marta Rovira, had previously been accused of.
After sedition was recently removed from the Spanish criminal code, Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena has now updated the indictment.
Whereas Oriol Junqueras, Catalan vice-president at the time of the 2017 referendum, was given a prison sentence of 13 years for his part in the independence push, the maximum jail time that Carles Puigdemont now faces is far lower.
Spanish PM said that the crime of 'aggravated public disorder' would replace sedition in the criminal code when reforming the laws, but Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena has already ruled out that the events of 2017 constitute this crime.
As Clara Ponsatí and Marta Rovira are now only charged with disobedience after the dropping of the sedition accusation, they would be free to return to Catalonia from exile without the possibility of imprisonment.
However, Rovira has not yet decided whether she will immediately return or remain in Switzerland, where she currently lives.
"If all the political debates that I do to improve everyone's lives also create the best conditions to allow me to return [from exile], once it is possible, we will return," she said during a press conference.
Llarena has acted just hours after the penal code has officially come into force on Thursday. The magistrate considers that as sedition has been repealed, the events now fall under the crime of disobedience, but not the new crime of aggravated public disorder.
In his explication, Llarena also took the opportunity to criticize the repeal of the sedition law, insisting that the penalties for the crime of sedition were comparable to those in the European environment - going against the argument made by the Spanish government when they explained they wanted to update the law to fit with continental standards.
According to the Supreme Court judge, regardless of the name of the crime, "the criminal nature" of the independence leaders' actions "is unquestionable in all countries around us."
He claims that in Germany or France, they would be punished with sentences of up to life imprisonment, while in Italy they would be at least 12 years in prison, and in Belgium between 20 and 30 years.
However, Llarena has previously attempted to have Carles Puigdemont extradited from Germany and Belgium, but in each case, the request was rejected.