Supreme Court revokes political prisoners' open prison regime

Judge Marchena charges against the Catalan prison administration

The Supreme Court has revoked the open prison regime of the Catalan political prisoners, as well as the application of article 100.2 of the prison regulation, thanks to which they had been granted certain release permits. After a week's deliberations, the court - presided over by Judge Manuel Marchena - has ruled on the thirty-something appeals he had been presented, and considered that it was "premature" to grant the semi-freedom regime. "A longer period of time is needed to properly evaluate the evolution of the inmates and the prison treatment, even more so in the case of high sentences (from 9 to 13 years) of which none of them have served half, and the majority not even a quarter", the judges stressed.

The Supreme Court aligns itself with the Public Prosecutor's Office, which had appealed all the concessions that the prison surveillance courts had granted to prisoners. First, the permits under 100.2 - they could go out to work and spend some days outside the prison - and then the open prison regime, according to which they spent the weekend at home and on weekdays went to the prison to sleep. The Lledoners' prisoners were already in prison, as their open regime was suspended after the Public Prosecutor's Office appealed against it; however, the former President of the Parliament, Carme Forcadell, and the former Minister Dolors Bassa, who did maintain this regime of semi-freedom. Now they will have to go back to prison.

"The court rules revenge again. A big hug, Carme and Dolors", tweeted ERC leader Oriol Junqueras. "The most predictable of scenarios is confirmed. The Supreme Court has ruled again. Little by little the state is turning into a big prison, a failed democracy that they are creating for themselves", former Minister Raül Romeva also wrote on Twitter. The Minister for Justice, Ester Capella, has blamed the "most politicised and questioned court in Europe". "It has done what we are used to seeing, when it comes to talk about the independence bid: to make the state's reasoning prevail over the law's reasoning. Moving away from justice and towards revenge. In short, to return to the principles that inspired the courts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries", she said in a video.

The decision was "foreseeable", since the Supreme Court had already overturned the application of article 100.2 for Forcadell in July, arguing that she had not served enough time of the sentence and that the alleged treatment programme had no connection with the reintegration of the crimes. The judges warned that the granting of the open regime is "exceptional" for those people who have not served a quarter of their sentence, which is the case for six of the nine people involved: all except Jordi Cuixart, Jordi Sànchez, and Joaquim Forn. "It demands a reinforced justification, logically, with respect to those cases in which the open regime is proposed to an inmate who has already served a quarter of the sentence", they point out.

The Supreme Court takes advantage of the nine orders issued to reiterate that "none of the defendants in these proceedings has been convicted of pursuing independence". "No one is serving a sentence for their political beliefs", the judges insisted in their briefs, in which they again argued generically on why they were found guilty of sedition. They "dynamited the bases of coexistence by promoting a tumultuous uprising with the aim of demonstrating that the resolutions of the Constitutional Court and the judges based in Catalonia were no longer enforceable", they maintain.

Criticism of the Catalan administration

Judge Marchena is especially critical of the Catalan prison administration and also disagrees with the judges of prison supervision who do accept the open regime. "The trial judge is mistaken in mentioning that the Public Prosecutor's appeal would require the inmate to change his ideology", in reference to Esquerra leader Oriol Junqueras. In their writings, the judges complain that the sentence should not be "permanently reinterpreted" in order to "accommodate the execution of the sentences imposed to the constitutional purposes that inspire the execution of sentences of imprisonment".

The judges also highlighted the fact that Forcadell was granted a change of prison, which was intended to avoid the former prison surveillance judge to take her 100.2 application to the Supreme Court. "Unjustified transfers from one prisoner to another are not permitted if this decision is strategically aimed at rectifying the competence of the Prison Supervision Judge, which is set in accordance with the territorial area where the prison is located", they stress. "Compliance with the law [by the prison administration] should not be made dependent on their degree of identification with, or disagreement with, the legal arguments on which the sentence is based", continued the judges, who were suspicious of the Catalan administrative bodies.

"They become an extravagant third instance that attributes to itself the task of taking a decision - emanating from the judges and courts constitutionally called upon to exercise the jurisdictional function. The prison administration bodies cannot empty the criminal response proclaimed by a court of justice by subjecting its sentence to a re-reading that disguises privileged and, precisely for this reason, inappropriate prison treatment. The reiteration of this idea - which the court has already set forth in previous resolutions - should no longer be necessary", the Supreme Court concludes.

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