At a time when Spanish justice is subject to scrutiny due to the trial against the independence movement, and the Supreme Court is pulling out all the stops to try to give the impression that it is on a par with the rest of the world, the cruel and arbitrary manner in which it acts has been revealed in a high profile case: the trial against the former president of Barcelona FC, Sandro Rosell, over alleged money laundering. In a landmark ruling, Spain’s National Court has acquitted Rosell and the other five defendants in the so-called Rimet case. The news would be of little interest, if it were not for a key factor: Rosell spent twenty-one months on remand on the orders of Judge Carmen Lamela.
How can someone be imprisoned for nearly two years on the strength of actions and evidence which, upon being examined in court, have simply vanished into thin air? How is it that at no point during all this time did any judicial authority or the appeals court manage to right what was later shown to be a monstrous wrong? Is it a coincidence that the judge who ordered the two Jordis (1) to be held on remand in October 2017, even before the declaration of independence, is the same one who kept Rosell in prison this whole time?
Spanish justice, the basic pillar of democracy, needs to be thoroughly overhauled to prevent such cases from happening again and it must address an issue which is always controversial and sensitive: how it can compensate someone for losing their freedom for such a long and painful time, with all the harm (personal, financial and otherwise) which it caused the individuals concerned and their families.
The first step, however, must be a serious investigation in order to determine whether Judge Lamela, who it is worth noting was promoted to a seat on the Supreme Court, is guilty of official misconduct. If it turned out that she acted in bad faith, the scandal would be even more serious, but at least it would show that the justice system works and is capable of spotting improper behaviour by members of the judiciary.
Nevertheless, even if Lamela is not found guilty of misconduct, what is highly questionable is whether an examining judge who has handled the preparation of a case so badly (the court released Rosell on the first day of the trial), and has taken such a serious decision as to deprive someone of their freedom in such an erroneous manner, would have sufficient credibility to continue their legal career without any consequences, especially in such a prominent place as the Supreme Court. We are speaking of the highest court in the land, of a court that theoretically is made up of the judicial elite, and which ought not to count among its members individuals who have discredited Spanish justice such as Carmen Lamela and Pablo Llarena himself.
It is hard to imagine what will happen if the charges of rebellion and sedition, which are what justified the decision to hold the defendants on remand, should falter during the trial of the independence leaders. It also makes it perfectly reasonable to enquire whether Rosell has been treated as an ordinary member of the public, or whether his social standing as a former president of Barça —and everything which goes with it— explains why this outrage occurred. At the very least, does anyone intend to apologize?
(1) Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, the two grassroots independence leaders currently on trial in Madrid.