Supreme Court upholds misuse of funds and disobedience charges against Puigdemont

Decision denies annulment of legal proceedings against politician in adjustment of prior indictment following penal code reform

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont speaking to the media on January 31, 2023
Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont speaking to the media on January 31, 2023 / Albert Cadanet
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

June 15, 2023 10:55 AM

June 15, 2023 11:37 AM

The Spanish Supreme Court has again upheld its decision to indict former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont for the crimes of misuse of funds and disobedience.

The move confirms the new charges the politician would face for the 2017 independence push in the event of his return to Catalonia, or if the Supreme Court updated the European arrest warrant against him.

The exiled leader has been living in Brussels ever since the failed October 2017 attempt to establish a Catalan Republic.

On Thursday, magistrates denied an appeal filed by the defense team of the current MEP, who requested an annulment of the legal proceedings against him.

Puigdemont's lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, said in the hearing in Madrid on June 8 that "the only way to move forward" is to request to the European chamber permission to charge him and fellow MEPs Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí, as the Spanish penal code has been changed since the last time this happened, with the crime of sedition being removed.

Magistrates had already denied an appeal in March from prosecutors requesting the indictment also include the crime of aggravated public disorder, which replaced the old sedition law, eliminated in the recent penal code reform – instead, the Supreme Court went for disobedience as an update on sedition.

Misuse of funds carries potential time in prison, and aggravated public disorder would also have meant potential extra time behind bars, but disobedience would only carry disqualification from public office.

Puigdemont, Comín, Puig could face jail, while Rovira and Ponsatí could only be sentenced to disqualification

The decision also sets the final conditions of the indictment of the other 2017 referendum leaders who remain abroad.

As Puigdemont, Comín and another exile, Lluís Puig, are now also facing disobedience and misuse of public funds – which could carry time in prison if they are tried.

Clara Ponsatí, who returned to Catalonia and was arrested in late March but then failed to appear at the Supreme Court one month later and remains in Belgium, will only face disobedience, that is, no possibility to spend time behind bars.

As for the only exile who is not in Belgium, but in Switzerland, Marta Rovira, she also faces only disobedience.

While Ponsatí already set a foot in Catalonia this spring, Rovira may also move back in the near future after the new penal code prompted a much lower potential sentence.

New penal code

Misuse of funds can carry prison time of between six months and up to five years if the politician is convicted, but disobedience only carries a disqualification from public office.

Before the new penal code came into effect, the pro-independence politician who is now an MEP was facing sedition and misuse of funds charges – the combination of both meant a 13-year sentence for his former vice president in the 2017 cabinet, Oriol Junqueras.

The latest penal code changes scrapped the crime of sedition and replaced it with that of aggravated public disorder. Yet, while the public prosecutor requested it be applied to Puigdemont in January, the Supreme Court has now upheld its original decision – also in January, judge Pablo Llarena, in charge of the politician's proceedings, ruled out that the events of 2017 constitute this new crime.