Judge Llarena: relocating the prisoners is for PM Sánchez to decide

Spain’s Interior Ministry has always maintained that the examining judge has the final say

On Thursday judge Pablo Llarena once again rejected an appeal by Carme Forcadell, Oriol Junqueras and Raül Romeva for their release from prison, since he considers them likely to reoffend and to still present a flight risk. In his ruling, Llarena also takes the opportunity to make it clear that he does not have the authority to rule on prison transfers. All three Catalan political prisoners included a request to be moved to a prison nearer home, but Llarena insists that such a decision is the responsibility of Spain’s Prison Service. Such was the judge’s response to Pedro Sánchez’s new government, who on multiple occasions have declared that the decision to transfer political prisoners to Catalonia resides with the investigating judge. Indeed, it is the same line which was taken by the Ministry of the Interior during Mariano Rajoy’s stint in office.

When the political prisoners initially asked to be transferred last April, sources close to the Prison Service told ARA that the investigating judge always has the final say, since they have to decide if the inmates need to be located near the court in order to give evidence at short notice, until such time as the judge has issued their initial ruling.

Now, however, Llarena has announced that he does not have the authority "to specify the exact prison" in which the political prisoners are to be detained. He did so with reference to criminal law and the General Prisons Act, as well as case law of both the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court. His ruling lists a series of laws and rulings, to conclude that the prison authorities have the sole authority to determine the location of inmates, in order to prevent overcrowding in certain prisons.

Firstly, according to Llarena, the Prisons Act establishes that it is the Prison Service who decides on the management, organisation and inspection of prisons, except when they are the responsibility of a regional government, as in the case of Catalonia. Secondly, Llarena states that the prison authorities have "the exclusive authority to decide, in an ordinary or extraordinary manner, the classification and destination of prisoners in the various penitentiary establishments, notwithstanding the powers of the supervisory judges in the matter of classification by means of appeal". The judge supports this point by citing earlier rulings by the Constitutional Court and highlighting the fact that, where transfers are concerned, "I don’t compete with the prison oversight judge with regard to responsibility for appeals".

An end to preventive measures for Simó, Corominas, Guinó and Barrufet

In his ruling, Pablo Llarena also announced that he is to lift all the cautionary measures against the members of the Parliamentary Bureau who are facing prosecution for disobedience: Anna Simó, Lluís Corominas, Lluís Guinó and Ramona Barrufet. Llarena accepted Simó's request and they will no longer need to appear in court every week, their passports will be returned and they are to be allowed to travel outside Spain. They will also have their €150,000 bail bond returned to them.

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