Supreme Court lifts bans from public office for half of pardoned referendum leaders

Heads of mainstream pro-independence parties Turull and Junqueras still disqualified until 2030 and 2031

Former Parliament speaker Carme Forcadell in the Supreme Court during the Catalan Trial (image from Supreme Court)
Former Parliament speaker Carme Forcadell in the Supreme Court during the Catalan Trial (image from Supreme Court) / ACN
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

February 13, 2023 12:22 PM

February 13, 2023 10:36 PM

The Spanish Supreme Court has lifted bans from public office for five of the independence leaders convicted for the 2017 referendum, following the recent changes in the penal code.

Former parliament speaker, Carme Forcadell, former ministers Josep Rull and Joaquim Forn, and leading activists in 2017, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, will be able to run in elections from now on.

Yet, the remaining four leaders convicted to decade-long prison sentences and subsequently pardoned saw no changes in their status.

Thus, the heads of the mainstream pro-independence parties – Oriol Junqueras, president of governing party Esquerra, and Jordi Turull, secretary general of Junts – are still disqualified until 2030 and 2031, respectively. 

Former Catalan ministers Raül Romeva and Dolors Bassa, both members of Esquerra, will also have to see out their disqualifications, until 2030 and 2031 respectively. 

Verdicts reviewed

The Supreme Court reviewed the verdicts handed down on October 14, 2019, in which the nine politicians and activists were sentenced to between 9 and 13 years each behind bars for sedition and misuse of funds – in 2021, the Spanish government pardoned them, so they were released, but Madrid kept their bars from public office in place. 

After a recent deal between the Socialists and Esquerra, the Spanish Congress reformed the penal code, replacing sedition with the crime of aggravated public disorder, carrying lower penalties, and also loosened the criteria around misuse of funds in some cases. 

In their ruling published on Monday, judges decided to replace the crime of sedition with disobedience and misuse of public funds for Romeva, Junqueras, Turull and Bassa, but declined to reduce the ban on public office, linked to the misuse of funds. 

Thus, magistrates decided that the amendments to misuse of funds in the penal code was not relevant in these cases. 

As for the others, Spain's top court replaced the sedition conviction for Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart with aggravated public disorder, and also removed sedition convictions from Carme Forcadell, Josep Rull and Joaquim Forn, replaced by disobedience. As the new crimes carry lower sentences, they have already been served in full. 

In their ruling, the Supreme Court say that the new crime of aggravated public disorders is not equivalent to the revoked crime of sedition, and warned that the new penal code provides impunity on independence pushes without violence or intimidation.

"The result is the opposite to what the penal code reform intended. This reform continues criminalizing the 2017 referendum," says Junts' secretary general, after learning he will still be barred from public office until 2030 / Catalan News
"The judiciary has reinterpreted the law the way they want in order to politically repress [the independence campaigners]," said Esquerra's lawyer, Andreu van den Eynde reacting to the Supreme Court keeping some disqualifications to 2017 referendum leaders / Catalan News