Just days away from the meeting between Catalan president Quim Torra and his Spanish counterpart, PM Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s courts of law are working double time to throw a spanner in the works. On Monday Catalonia’s High Court [TSJC] pressed fresh charges against president Torra over his decision to hang a banner in support of the political prisoners and exiles from the balcony of the Catalan government building. Torra has recently been stripped of his seat in parliament by Spain’s Electoral Board following an identical incident. This time the charges stem from a complaint lodged by [unionist platform] Impulso Ciudadano which prompted the TSJC to give the Catalan leader 48 hours to remove the banner. It was September 19. The Catalan president refused to and it wasn’t until September 27 that police officers were instructed to take it down.
Parallel to this, on Friday last week Spain’s Constitutional Court brought criminal charges against the Speaker of the Catalan parliament, Roger Torrent, after the chamber passed a resolution against the Spanish monarchy and in favour of self-determination. Furthermore, Justice Pablo Llarena has asked the UK authorities to extradite [exiled Catalan MEP] Clara Ponsatí with the excuse that she has lost her parliamentary immunity due to Brexit. At the same time, the Public Prosecutor has spoken against granting Jordi Cuixart a three-day leave from prison because “he shows no regret”. Everything indicates that the objective of taking the Catalan feud out of the courts —which Pedro Sánchez and the PSOE pledged to undertake— will be much harder to achieve than initially thought. Once it has been set in motion, the machinery of the judiciary is very difficult to stop.
Therefore, if there is one thing we can anticipate about the coming months it is that the judiciary will continue to apply pressure because —to a large extent— it is one of the bodies of the State that oppose all change and seek to wreck both the policies of the new PSOE-Podemos executive as well as any attempt to hold talks with Catalonia. The Catalan secessionist parties would do well to include this variable in they analysis of the situation and try, if at all possible, not to allow this to affect their main strategy: the possibility of a dialogue with the State.
Catalan politics must be rid of the supervision of courts of law, must be shielded against their actions and, therefore, judges and prosecutors shouldn’t be find it easy to intervene. At the same time, the judicial battle in Europe must go on whilst remembering that it is defeats in Europe that irritate Spanish judges the most.
This will be a long game that, for now, the PSOE has agreed to play with gestures like a hypothetical reduction of the penalty for the crime of sedition. Still, that is not the ideal solution: what is needed is an amnesty that embraces all the legal cases to do with Catalonia’s independence bid. We must be aware that this won’t be achieved easily, as it must be approved by a majority of representatives in the Spanish parliament. Meanwhile Spain’s judicial machine will keep working to ruin any solution or measure that benefits the political prisoners, the exiles and everyone who is still facing charges.