Summary of the main court cases filed against Catalan authorities for actions related to the self-determination process since 2012.

Background

Among other reasons, Catalan society reached its tipping point to the independence of the country in 2010, when a Spanish Constitutional Court ruling sturck down parts of the Catalan Statute of Autonomy (regional constitution), which had been approved by the Catalan and Spanish parliaments, and by the Catalan citizens through a binding referendum vote in 2006.

Mass mobilizations in Catalonia every Catalan National Day since 2012, with more than a million people in the streets, forced political parties to take a stand and demand a referendum.

Since the pro-independence movement started, more than 400 judicial proceedings have been opened against the Catalan government, local and district authorities, as well as elected representatives.

 

Case against Former President Mas and members of his government

The Former president and three ex-ministers of the Catalan government have been charged with serious disobedience and other crimes for ignoring a court injunction against the unofficial consultative process of November 2014. On December 12th 2013 the Catalan president announced the celebration of a self-determination referendum. At the same time, the Catalan Parliament adopted  (87 in favour to 43 against) a motion requesting the transfer of  the power to organize referendums which according to the Spanish constitution belongs to the Spanish authorities. On April 8th 2014 the Spanish Parliament turned down the initiative.

Not having the refernedum competence devolved, on 19th September 2014 the Catalan Parliament adopted a Bill on polls other than referendums (Llei de consultes populars no referendàries i participació ciutadana) with the support of 79% of MPs, and president Mas signed the decree setting the date and question of the poll. Within 48 hours, the Spanish government obtained the Opinion of the Privy Council, and challenged the measures before the Constitutional Court, which provisionally suspended parts of the Law and the Decree on the same day, after holding the first emergency meeting in its history. The Catalan government advertised widely that the poll had been blocked by the Constitutional court, and ceased publicity.

On October 14th president Mas replaced the poll with a consultative process, which was to be organized by civil society with the support of the government. This process maintained the questions of the poll: do you want Catalonia to be a state? If so, do you want this state to be independent? On November 4th the Constitutional Court ruled to outlaw the poll, yet the government maintained the action, and on November 9th 2,344,828 citizens voted, of which 90·9% said they wanted Catalonia to become a state.

Afterwards the High Court of Justice of Catalonia prosecutors concluded that there was no basis to start criminal proceedings against president Mas and other organizers of the consultative process, the ministers Ms. Rigau and Ms. Ortega, and the spokesperson Mr. Homs. Nevertheless, the Spanish chief prosecutor filed a case accusing them of contempt of court, criminal mismanagement of public funds, prevarication and usurpation of functions.

The trial opens on February 6th 2017.

Case against the speaker of the parliament Ms. Forcadell

In July 2016, the Catalan Parliament debated a report on the road map to independence. Soon after, the Spanish chief prosecutor filed a complaint that charged Carme Forcadell, the Speaker of the Parliament, with contempt of court and neglect of duty for allowing a debate and letting the assembly vote on whether (and how) to pursue independence as requested by a majority in the chamber. Catalonia’s Parliament is a plural assembly that reflects the diversity of Catalan society and allows the expression of all views and opinions. Carme Forcadell, committed to ensuring all MPs’ right of free expression, whether or not they are in favour of independence, reasoned that debates on subjects of interest to citizens cannot be banned.

Cases against 400 municipal governments and elected local representatives.

Court proceedings are currently open against local and district authorities, as well as elected local representatives, on more than 400 scores.

387 administrative proceedings have been filed for:

  • Not displaying the Spanish flag in the town hall (116)
  • Declaring the town a “free and sovereign territory” (47)
  • Adopting motions in favour of fiscal autonomy (106)
  • Paying fees to a pro-independence municipal association (58)
  • Opening the local council premises on Spain’s National Day (58)
  • Belonging to and paying the fees of a pro-independence municipal association (1)
  • Chartering trains in order to take people to the 2012 Catalan National Day demonstration (1)

16 criminal proceedings for:

  • Voting motions to support those of the Catalan Parliament relating to the consultative process (8).
  • “Seditious” staement by a local councillor  during a plenary (1).
  • Opening the town hall premises on Spain’s National Day (6)
  • Flying the pro-independence Catalan flag from the town hall during an electoral period (1).

The Spanish courts have dismissed or closed 124 of these cases filed by the representatives of  the Spanish authorities in Catalonia.  On 69 occasions, courts have ruled in favour of the Spanish government and imposed fines. The remaining cases are still open.

 

In the International media

Bloomberg – 01/10/2014

First Scotland, Now SpainCatalonia’s local government has scheduled a referendum for Nov. 9, but on Tuesday Spain’s Constitutional Court suspended it. This is the same court that issued a ruling four years ago — in a case also brought by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party — that gutted a 2006 Spanish law granting Catalonia more autonomy. (Editorial Board)

BBC – 09/11/2014

Catalonia holds nonbinding vote on independenceThe people of Catalonia in north-eastern Spain are voting in a disputed and non-binding poll on independence.

BBC – 19/11/2014

Prosecutors in Spain to charge Catalonia leader MasSpanish prosecutors are to file criminal charges against Catalan President Artur Mas in response to a 9 November unofficial independence vote.

The Guardian – 29/09/2015

Catalan leader faces abuse of power claimsThe Catalan leader, Artur Mas, has been summoned by the region’s high court to answer accusations of civil disobedience and abuse of power over his role in last year’s symbolic referendum on independence, stoking tensions in the just days after secessionists won control of the state parliament. (by Ashifa Kassam)

The Telegraph – 13/10/2015

Catalan officials deny November independence vote was criminal actEducation secretary and former deputy president testify before Barcelona judge two days before Artur Mas will answer same accusations of disobedience, abuse of office, misuse of public funds and usurping authority. (by James Badcock)

Reuters – 28/06/2016

Spanish court urges trial of exCatalan leader over referendumA Spanish court on Tuesday recommended that Catalonia’s former leader be tried for staging a mock independence referendum in 2014 in breach of a legal order, potentially fuelling separatist discontent in the wealthy north-eastern region. (Reporting by Rodrigo de Miguel; Writing by Sarah White; Editing by Dave Graham and Gareth Jones)

AFP – 13/10/2016

ExCatalan chief to stand trial for independence voteCatalonia’s former separatist chief Artur Mas will stand trial for staging a symbolic independence vote, judicial authorities said Thursday, just weeks after the Spanish region’s current president promised a referendum.

The New York Times – 30/01/2017

Defending Freedom in Catalonia. Are the interests of citizens in a democratic parliament debatable? This is what is at stake in Catalonia, where parliamentary deputies demand the right to exercise their freedom of speech, while the Spanish government says they must accept being censored. (by Carme Forcadell)