Trial of former parliament bureau goes ahead despite one defendant's refusal to attend
Politician slams "sham" to "prevent will to overthrow criminal monarchy and establish Catalan Republic"
The disobedience trial of four former parliament bureau members in Catalonia's High Court (TSJC) will go ahead despite the decision of one of the accused, Josep Costa, to walk out on Thursday after calling it a "sham."
Costa, along with current business minister and former parliament speaker Roger Torrent, as well as Eusebi Campdepadrós, and Adriana Delgado, were charged with disobedience for allowing the parliament to vote on motions about the monarchy and self-determination in November 2019.
The trial in which they face up to 20-month disqualifications from public office and €30,000 fines began on Wednesday.
Costa, who was briefly arrested last year for not attending a pre-trial hearing, argues these proceedings exemplify a desire to "subjugate the parliament to prevent the will of the people to overthrow a criminal monarchy and establish a Catalan Republic from being expressed."
"I've never believed in the impartiality of a court where there is a portrait on the wall of the king of a delinquent monarchy the Catalan parliament has denounced," Costa told the judges.
While defendants need not be in attendance for trials to proceed, typically their lawyers do – and Costa is representing himself.
According to the judges, one of whom said he had not encountered a case like this in 20 or 30 years, Costa has rejected his right to court-appointed counsel but can return at any point.
There is also a chance that a mistrial could be declared as the court is yet to respond to a request to have one of the judges recused. If it decides in favor of the recusal request a new trial will have to be held.
Anti-monarchy and self-determination motions
The former parliament bureau members are accused of contravening Spain’s Constitutional Court and authorizing votes on motions that were deemed unlawful.
The motions were passed on November 12, 2019, with subsequent amendments on November 26. They were backed by pro-independence parties, holding a majority of seats in the chamber.
One of the texts stressed that parliament "reiterates and will reiterate as many times as MPs choose the disapproval of the monarchy, the defense of self-determination and the affirmation of the sovereignty of the people of Catalonia to decide their political future."
The second one saw the chamber accusing Spain's Constitutional Court of "censorship" on self-determination and criticism of monarchy discussions.
During the debate on the second motion, unionist Ciutadans announced that their party would take the passed motion to the prosecutor's office. "You are the champions of disobedience," said the then-leader of the party, Lorena Roldán.
In November 2019, the Constitutional Court had already partly suspended the motion, warning the parliament and the members of its bureau, who at the time were under speaker Roger Torrent, of the criminal consequences of not complying with its rulings.
"The judicial system is more worried to go after freedoms than to guarantee them," Torrent tweeted after it was announced in March 2022 that he and his colleagues would face trial.
If the four are ultimately found guilty of disobedience, they could face a ban from public office, joining a long list of Catalan officials sacked for their role in the independence push, including former president Quim Torra and members of the cabinet that called a referendum and attempted to break away from Spain in 2017.