Catalonia’s High Court launches new case against president Torra over banner hung in support of political prisoners and exiles

The court believes the Catalan leader might have committed a crime of disobedience when it took him over one week to have the banner removed in September last year

After being stripped of his seat in parliament ahead of the Supreme Court’s definitive ruling on his disbarment, on Monday Catalan president Quim Torra saw a fresh probe launched against him by Catalonia’s Hight Court [TSJC in Catalan]. The reason is the same that led to Torra’s conviction for disobedience: his refusal to remove a banner hanging on the façade of the seat of the Catalan government bearing a message in support of the political prisoners and exiles. Following a complaint lodged by [unionist platform] Impulso Ciudadano, on 19 September last year the TSJC gave Torra 48 hours to have the banner taken down. The Catalan leader refused to and eventually Catalan police officers removed it on September 27.

Now the TSJC has launched a fresh case against Quim Torra and Justice Carlos Ramon Rubio —the judge that also handled the previous case— has been tasked with leading the examination phase. Therefore, president Torra is likely to be summoned and deposed before the court decides whether to go ahead with the hearing phase or not. Both the public prosecution and Impulso Ciudadano pushed for it when they presented their case in court, whereas the Catalan government’s legal team argued against it.

Impulso Ciudadano aimed to ensure that government buildings would remain “neutral” by insisting that no banner should be hung at any time, no merely during an election campaign. Now the TSJC has opened a separate probe to establish whether Torra disobeyed the court’s orders, ahead of a judgement about the crux of the matter: are the Catalan authorities allowed to hang a banner on the façade of the government’s building?

Furthermore, the unionist platform have announced that they will ask for a third case to be brought against Quim Torra, as on January 3 the banner was hung up again by members of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) after Torra handed it over to them.

“Revenge”

The Catalan president was quick to respond by means of a statement denouncing that the reason behind the fresh suit is to exact “revenge” as part of the “all-out lawfare waged against the Catalan independence movement”. “It has become apparent that the key issue was neither the election nor the institutions’ neutrality during the campaign —contrary to what many had claimed—, but the fact that the Spanish State has a problem with freedom of expression and upholding basic rights”, the statement says.

The president’s department emphasises that “Catalan president Quim Torra has always been consistent and honest in his defence of freedom of expression, as well as civil and political rights. That is why he did not remove the banner until the police turned up to do so, following a court injunction” and the statement goes on to say that the president’s legal counsel “will take any decisions necessary against this new judicial attack, which is to be examined by the same judge who saw the previous case”.