Why has Catalan president Torra been ousted?
It is the first time ever that the electoral board, and not a court, disqualifies a head of government
"Complying with an illegal order was impossible." This sentence was part of Catalan president Quim Torra's defense statement while in the dock on November 18, 2019 – yet this did not prevent him from being found guilty for disobedience and being ousted from Catalonia's top job.
Why? The president failed to comply in time with an order from Spain's electoral board to remove symbols from the front of the government building in Barcelona in the run-up to the Spanish general election at the end of April 2019.
Specifically, the signs in contention were yellow ribbons, which have become the symbol showing solidarity with the Catalan leaders tried and sentenced to prison by the Supreme Court over the bid to split from Spain in 2017. After they were arrested in the aftermath of the unilateral independence referendum in autumn 2017, people sympathetic with their cause (they spent some two years in custody before being given jail terms of between 9 and 13 years on October 14, while others are in exile and risk arrest if they return) have worn yellow ribbons or hung them from buildings, including many public buildings.
President Torra did in the end get the ribbons removed as ordered, but by the time the deadline set by the electoral board had already passed.
A criminal case against him was subsequently opened after unionist Ciutadans and People's Party's appeals.
In March, the public prosecutor assessed the case and decided to press charges, accusing the president of disobedience and calling for him to be barred from holding public office for a year and eight months and to pay a fine of 30,000 euros.
Torra was prosecuted, indicted, and after a one-day trial on November 18, found guilty on disobedience charges by Catalonia's high court.
Yet the decision was not final and Torra appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.
It is the first time ever that the electoral board, and not a court, disqualifies a head of government, although it is not clear whether this will automatically happen.