Spanish government nominates new Attorney General
Sánchez Melgar is to become the state’s leading prosecutor against Catalan leaders, after José Manuel Maza passed away on Saturday
The Spanish government is to propose Julián Sánchez Melgar as the new Attorney General, following José Manuel Maza’s sudden death in Argentina on Saturday due to a kidney infection. If confirmed that Sánchez Melgar — currently a magistrate at the Supreme Court — will take over Maza’s role as the state’s leading prosecutor against Catalan pro-independence leaders, in a moment of unprecedented political tension.
In order to be appointed as Spain’s next Attorney General, Sánchez Melgar will have to be approved by the General Council of the Judicial Power. He will subsequently appear before the justice commission of the Spanish Parliament; yet, Spain’s ruling People’s Party does not need the votes of opposition groups to confirm their nominee.
Sánchez Melgar could become the fourth person to be appointed as public prosecutor since 2011, when People’s Party took power in Spain. The position has proved controversial in recent years, and Maza’s term in office was not an exception: the Spanish Parliament reproved him following the resignation of one of his right-hand men who had links with a Panama-based organization.
In recent weeks, Maza became one of the most prominent figures of the Spanish state’s response to Catalonia’s push for independence. After the Catalan Parliament voted on a declaration of independence on October 27, Maza filed charges of rebellion against the Parliament bureau members who allowed the vote to take place, and against the Catalan government, which had been dismissed by Madrid.
Eight ministers in jail
Following Maza’s accusations, the National Court sent eight Catalan ministers to jail, pending trial. The charges they face carry prison sentences of up to 30 years. Additionally, the National Court issued an extradition order against Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and four ministers, who are currently in Belgium.
Acting Attorney General
After Maza’s death, Madrid appointed Luis Navajas — a Supreme Court attorney — to act as public prosecutor until a successor was found. In his first move as acting Attorney General, Navajas opposed himself to the Supreme Court’s takeover of the case against pro-independence leaders who are currently being tried at the National Court, which was subsequently confirmed on Friday.