Prosecutor demands 10-year suspension for Mas following vote on November 9

Former Catalan president Artur Mas has been charged with disobedience and willful neglect of duty. Ministers Joana Ortega and Irene Rigau may also be barred from holding office.

The public prosecutor demands a ten-year suspension for former Catalan president Artur Mas and nine years for ex-ministers Joana Ortega and Irene Rigau for having held a non-binding referendum on November 9, 2014. Nearly two years after the complaint was originally filed against all three, prosecutors Francisco Bañeres and Emilio Sánchez Ulled have submitted the charges in writing before Catalonia’s High Court (TSJC).

The Prosecution accuses Mas, Ortega and Rigau of disobeying the Constitutional Court (TC) by holding the vote and willfully neglecting their duty by remaining involved in the affair until the very end, even though they knew that the referendum had been suspended by the TC.

A strategy of full-on disobedience

According to the Prosecutor’s statement, once Mas had learned about the suspension of the vote, he “went on to devise a fully effective disobedience strategy” against the Court’s injunction and plotted with Ortega and Rigau to ensure that “all public measures required for the vote would go ahead as planned”.

The prosecutors believe that Mas, Ortega and Rigau “were fully aware” that their actions contravened the Constitutional Court’s injunction against the referendum and they claim that Mas’ decisions were taken “on his own accord”.

When Mas was summoned to make a statement over 9N in October 2015, he took political responsibility for the vote, but stated that volunteers had taken over the actual holding of the ballot after the TC’s suspension. The Public Prosecutor argues that, in fact, Mas remained at the helm of the operation while “pretending that all public preparations had been halted and everything was left up to the general public”. He also notes that the former Catalan president never signed any executive orders so as not to leave evidence of his personal involvement.

Mas, in the crosshairs of the Prosecution

The Public Prosecutor believes that Mas was the mastermind behind the act of disobedience against the TC, whereas Rigau and Ortega were “necessary abettors”. According to the prosecution’s statement of charges, Mas “chose to ignore the mandate of the Court and deliberately opted to neglect his duty as president”.

As for Joana Ortega, the document claims that the Catalan vice president “remained in charge of maintaining public order and coordinated all the actions taken”. She is being accused of “leading the coordination efforts of all public employees and institutions” and “personally overseeing the main administrative actions”.

The prosecutors believe that former Education Minister Irene Rigau liaised with Mas and Ortega and “offered them all the facilities” of her ministry so that the 7,000 computers needed for the vote would be made available and to ensure that Catalan schools could be used as polling stations.

No prison sentence

At first the Prosecution also demanded charges against all three plaintiffs for misappropriating public funds to finance the consultation, but this offence —which carries a prison sentence— was eventually dropped from the prosecutors’ statement.

The two prosecutors conclude that the crimes of disobedience and willful neglect of duty must be punished as one, because one led to the other. They ask that Mas be suspended for ten years, with a nine-year suspension for Rigau and Ortega. Still, should the court decide to split the two eventual penalties, Mas’ would be a nine and a half year suspension plus a 36,000€ fine, with eight and a half years for his ex-ministers and a fine of 30,000€.

The Prosecution demands that during this time Mas, Ortega and Rigau are barred from “holding any public office” at any level “be it local or state-wide”. Should they be found guilty as charged, they will also be suspended from “holding any executive office at regional and Spanish level”.

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