Spain’s Supreme Court upholds ruling to ban Catalan leader from office

Spain’s Supreme Court on Monday upheld a ruling to ban Quim Torra,  Catalonia’s regional president, from holding public office for 18-months over his refusal to remove slogans supporting jailed separatists on the run up to general elections last year.

While the regional high court of Catalonia made the initial ruling against Torra, who is in favour of Catalan independence, in December 2019, supreme court judges unanimously upheld the decision on Monday, meaning Torra will have to step down from office and pay a €30,000 fine for “disobedience.”

In a court statement, judges said Torra had demonstrated a “forceful, repeated, stubborn and obstinate resistance” to applying the law when he refused to remove signs in support of jailed Catalan politicians and activists from the regional government headquarters in Barcelona on the run up to the April 2019 general elections.

The use of government or public institutions for political campaigning during an election period is illegal in Spain.

Torra maintained that orders for him to remove the signs were against freedom of speech. The Supreme Court judges said that as a citizen, Torra was free to express his political opinion.

With the ruling, the regional Catalan government, a coalition between Torra’s JxCat party and the left-wing, pro-independence ERC, will appoint current deputy leader Pere Aragonés as a caretaker president.

This will pave the way for another president to be appointed as regional elections would take place if the process fails.

The Catalan branch of the Socialist Party and the conservative Popular Party, both of which are anti-Catalan independence, have called for elections to be held straight away.

Torra took office in May 2018.

His predecessor, Carles Puigdemont, remains in self-exile in Belgium, where he has been since the abortive 2017 referendum to avoid an arrest warrant.

In October last year nine Catalan politicians and civil society leaders were handed sentences of between nine and 13 years acts of sedition and misuse of public funds for their role in the illegal vote. (EUROEFE WITH EPA)

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