Spain’s National Court will file sedition charges against 20-S protests

The court considers there is a case to be heard, despite the offence being based on a Criminal Code dating from the Franco era

This Wednesday Spanish National Court Judge Carmen Lamela agreed to proceed with the public prosecutor’s case for the crime of sedition relating to the events that took place in Barcelona on the 20th and 21st of September. The demonstrations and protests followed the arrests of Catalan government officials and police searches of various buildings belonging to the Generalitat.

The judge endorses the office of the public prosecutor's account of the events and believes that the actions were "carried out to prevent by force the action of the authorities and their agents in the exercise of their duties in the defence of constitutional order". She agreed to hand over the case to the Guardia Civil to draw up a report of the facts before beginning a formal investigation.

In a court statement issued just five days after receiving the report, the judge analyses the actions of the various parties involved and the facts of the case according the public prosecutor's account. Judge Lamela concludes that they fall under the crime of sedition per Article 544 of the Criminal Code, though some lawyers doubt that the crime of sedition can be tried by the National Court, since the Criminal Code in question dates from 1973, during the Franco era.

Judge Lamela has ruled that for an offence to be classified as sedition it requires collective behaviour which is characterised as a "tumultuous" uprising, which is "aimed at preventing by force or illegal means the application of laws" or anyone related to the exercise of their functions or the fulfilment of their agreements or carrying out administrative or judicial resolutions.

Judge Lamela has stated that the legal right being protected is "public order", defined as "peace and tranquillity" in the external manifestations of peaceful coexistence. Article 544 also protects the principle of authority understood as that which the public places in its institutions in order that they may properly carry out the functions that they exercise at the service of a democratic society and, therefore, of the community, a function which, Judge Lamela adds, "would be called into question if they were to be hindered by force".

The judge considers that the case can be heard by the National Court, meaning that as well as committing an offence against legally protected assets, it could also constitute "an offence against the form of government", as these types of crimes are defined under the Franco-era Criminal Code. In line with the public prosecutor’s version of the events, the ultimate goal of the demonstrations, according to Lamela, was to "disrupt the organisation of the state", meaning it is also an offence against Spain’s current form of government as defined in the organic law of the judiciary, which regulates the powers of the National Court.

The judge states that "it is not the NC’s responsibility to hear all crimes of sedition of a general nature", but, in this particular case, the crime of sedition "may also be an attack on the form of government, in trying to illegally alter the territorial organisation of the state and declare the independence of a part of the national territory", which also comes under the jurisdiction of the court.

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