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TC asks public prosecutor to bring criminal charges against Speaker of Catalan Parliament

The public prosecutor’s office had already declared itself sympathetic to bringing charges of contempt against Carme Forcadell

On Thursday the TC [Constitutional Court] unanimously decided to ask the Public Prosecutor to consider criminal charges against Speaker Carme Forcadell, for having "failed in her duty to abide by the Court’s ruling." The Attorney General, Consuelo Madrigal, announced in early September that she was prepared to prosecute Forcadell for contempt of court.

The Constitutional Court’s decision has virtually coincided with the Supreme Court petitioning the Spanish parliament for permission to prosecute the Partit Demòcrata Europeu Català’s spokesperson in Madrid, Francesc Homs, over 9-N [the non-binding referdendum held on 9 November]. It also coincided with the day when the Catalan Parliament voted in favour of Carles Puigdemont’s roadmap for independence following its general policy debate, with a referendum next year and constituent elections in 2018. The pro-independence movement is facing the toughest judicial term for the ‘process’, which may finally see threats becoming actions, with various political leaders being barred from holding office.

The TC is calling for action against Forcadell for having allowed the Catalan Parliament to vote on the conclusions of the Committee to Study the Constituent Process, several days after having been warned by the court that she was to "prevent or halt" any initiative which represented a move towards independence. It is an unprecedented decision. And it comes, surprisingly, after various sources at the Constitutional Court maintained throughout September that they wished to delay banning Forcadell from public office for several months and did not intend to act until they had ruled on their own reform. The judges also have pending two appeals —one from the Basque Government and the other from the Catalan Government— which argue that the PP’s reform of the TC —which would turn it into a criminal court— is unconstitutional. The PP’s interference was not welcomed by the TC.

The TC shrugs off responsibility

The court has now decided to overturn the Committee’s conclusions on the constituent process and leave the case in the hands of the prosecutor. The judges argue that under no circumstances are they invoking the PP’s amendment and claim that, ultimately, it is down to the public prosecutor to decide whether contempt of court has been committed and if Forcadell will have to face being banned from holding office. In its written statement, the TC states they do not consider themselves called upon to decide whether or not Forcadell’s conduct constitutes a criminal offence, but rather to present the facts to the public prosecutor, "for them to take the necessary criminal action, as they see fit".

Although it is an unprecedented step, nonetheless, the TC has decided to choose the more sympathetic course against Forcadell. Among its powers, before the PP’s fast-track reform, the TC already had the possibility of asking the prosecutor to intervene in the event of a failure to act on the court’s rulings. The Court is not asking for the Speaker of the House to be banned from holding office yet.

In defence of “free speech"

On August 18, Speaker Carme Forcadell was notified by the TC of its decision to suspend the conclusions’ of the Committee to Study the Constituent Process. She was given 20 days to submit a report outlining the reasons why she allowed the vote to go ahead. In her report, Forcadell defended her actions as Leader of the House, denying that she had disobeyed the TC and stating that the "the citizens’ right to free speech and participation through their representatives" had been carried out without "unlawful disruption". In other words, she presented herself to the judges as a mere intermediary between the people and their representatives.

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