Jailed pro-independence activist Jordi Sànchez is expected to be sworn in as the next president of Catalonia on Monday next week. Yet, it is far from clear whether the Spanish courts will allow him out of prison to take up the post or not.
Sànchez’s defense team filed a request asking for his release on Tuesday. Sànchez faces criminal charges of rebellion for his role as the former head of the Catalan National Assembly, one of the most influential grassroots organizations in the independence camp. Sànchez has been held in pretrial prison since mid-October.
The parliament speaker Roger Torrent announced on Monday that he was putting Sànchez forward as the presidential candidate, following an agreement between the two main pro-independence parties in the chamber, Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) and Esquerra Republicana (ERC).
The exile hurdles
Sànchez was proposed as the candidate by Carles Puigdemont, after the latter temporarily abandoned his efforts to reclaim the presidency of Catalonia. Puigdemont tried to retake office from Brussels, where he is seeking refuge from the Spanish judiciary, but the Constitutional Court made it clear that any attempt to swear him in at a distance would be suspended.
Yet, even if the Spanish courts allow Sànchez to attend the parliament, his election raises questions. The far-left CUP party has dismissed Sànchez’s candidacy, arguing that the political roadmap proposed by JxCat and ERC fails to build on last October’s declaration of independence, abiding instead by the Spanish constitution.
Without CUP’s support, JxCat and ERC could still elect Sànchez. Yet, it would come at a cost: in order for them to have a majority of seats, Puigdemont and another politician in Brussels would be forced to resign as MPs and cede their seats to people who could effectively make their votes count.
Sànchez’s defense alleges that the defendants’ political rights, as well as the rights of the people who voted for him as JxCat’s number two candidate, must be protected. They also argue that not allowing his investiture would alter the normal functioning of Catalan institutions.
Lawyers cite ‘Yoldi Case’
Sànchez’s defense team made the requests in two letters sent to the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court, respectively. In arguing for Sànchez’s release so that he can attend the parliament, the letters cite as a precedent the so-called ‘Yoldi Case’, which took place in the 1980s in the Basque Country.
Although in custody suspected of belonging to the Basque separatist group ETA, a Pamplona court gave Juan Carlos Yoldi permission to attend an investiture session in the Basque parliament as the candidate for the Herri Batasuna party. Calling the court’s decision “brave”, Sànchez’s lawyers hope that today’s judges will do the same for their client.
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