Junqueras, Sànchez sanctioned for sending political messages from prison by phone

Both sent voice messages recorded in Estremera and Soto del Real

The Secretary General of Penitentiary Institutions of Spain’s Ministry of the Interior has opened an investigation into Oriol Junqueras and the President of the ANC Jordi Sànchez, for the voice messages of a political nature they both sent from prison —Estremera and Soto de Real, respectively—, which were recorded over the phone.

Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido announced the opening of an investigation today, hours after radio programme El món a RAC1 broadcast a brief interview with the Vice-president of the Puigdemont government. Junqueras’ voice had previously been heard on Saturday at an ERC meeting in a recording made from prison, after having been released earlier in the day by ARA.

For his part, Jordi Sànchez was recorded in a telephone message that was played at a Junts per Catalunya rally in which he called for support for the electoral list headed by Carles Puigdemont and accused Ines Arrimadas, Miquel Iceta and Xavier García Albiol of being Mariano Rajoy’s "useful idiots”.
Penitentiary Institutions has launched a probe into whether Sànchez and Junqueras have used communication channels intended to allow prisoners to contact their family or their lawyers in order to disseminate messages with other purposes. The two leaders —both candidates for the 21-D election— may now make a statement to justify their conduct.

Llarena authorizes Sànchez to address the electorate

Meanwhile, in the case of Sànchez, at least, there is another factor that must be taken into account, since the message sent by the president of the ANC could be covered by one of the scenarios allowed by Pablo Llarena, the Supreme Court judge in charge of the case. Although he was denied permission to leave prison to campaign as a member of the Junts per Catalunya’s slate, Llarena agreed to allow Sànchez to use the communications channels permitted by the prison in order to communicate with the electorate. This includes letters and articles, such as those published in ARA, and it could be argued that it covers voice messages recorded in one of the weekly calls he is authorised to make.

According to the Catalan News Agency (ACN), Jordi Sànchez recorded the telephone message on 3 December. When he made the call, he had not yet been given formal permission to participate in the campaign. However, when the message was released on the evening of Friday 15 December, Llarena had authorized him to "communicate with the electorate" the day before.

The Otegi case

A precedent exists in the case of the Basque separatist leader Arnaldo Otegi, who was investigated for participating in an EH Bildu rally during the 2012 election campaign with a message recorded from Logroño jail, where he was serving a prison sentence. Precautionary measures were taken against Otegi, such as a temporary ban on maintaining telephone communications and visits while the investigation was underway. Finally, Logroño prison’s disciplinary committee sanctioned him with being confined to his cell for 12 days due to a serious breach of the regulations and suspended his daily walk for three days due to a minor breach.