November 08, 2017
Spain's attorney general personally sought pre-emptive prison for Catalan rebels
The problem with an independent judiciary is that, once it is set in motion, it is a violation of the separation of powers to stop it. This is the dilemma facing the Spanish government on Catalonia. When ten days ago the Spanish government dissolved the Catalan parliament for regional elections on December 21, tensions in Catalonia seemed to relax somewhat. However, last week Spain's state prosecution indicted the Catalan cabinet and the board of the Catalan parliament for crimes ranging from rebellion to misuse of public funds, and asked the judges overseeing the cases to jail them pre-emptively. This inflamed public controversy again and opened the Spanish government to domestic and international criticism for heavy-handedness.
However, according to press reports, the attorney general José Manuel Maza personally took the decision to pursue the harder line against the wishes of the Spanish government, which would have preferred the courts to impose laxer precautionary measures so as not to disturb the political campaign for the Catalan elections. Government sources insist that the attorney general meets regularly with the minister of justice, but doesn't take instructions or discuss specific cases. The decisions on precautionary measures are taken by judges, not by the state prosecution. And in this case two different judges, in two different courts, have taken different decisions. Judge Carmen Lamela of the National Court went along with the prosecution and decided to jail nine members of the dismissed Catalan cabinet pre-emptively, all but one without bail. By contrast, Judge Pablo Llanera of the Supreme Court gave the five indicted members of the board of the Catalan parliament an extra week to prepare their defence, and just restricted them not to leave Spain.
Since last week, there have been suggestions that the Supreme Court might reverse the precautionary prison dictated by the National Court, by requesting the unification of the two cases. According to El Confidencial this could happen as early as this Thursday. ABC reports also that judge Llanera is studying the possibility of accumulating the parallel cases being heard in the Catalan courts. The High Court of Justice of Catalonia already has a case open against the members of the board of the Catalan parliament, while one of the ordinary courts of Barcelona is investigating the preparations for the October 1st vote - which went ahead despite a constitutional court injunction. If Llanera accumulates all the connected cases, there is a possibility that he might also release the grass-roots separatist leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sánchez, who were sent to pre-emptive prison by judge Lamela.