The Spanish Supreme Court confirmed on Monday the sentence of a year and a half of disqualification imposed on the president of the Generalitat de Catalunya, Quim Torra.
The sentence is final and forces him to step down, opening a new institutional crisis in Catalonia. Torra will continue to serve formally as President until the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia – the body that tried and condemned him in the first instance – executes the sentence and when the Official State Bulletin has published his disqualification.
Torra will be released from his responsibility for failing to comply with the order to remove a banner in favor of politicians arrested by the process (Catalonia’s independence process), in what is the first disqualification of a Catalan President in office.
According to The country, Torra still has a ‘trump card’ for not being removed from office: go to the Constitutional Court for protection and ask for the execution of the sentence to be suspended.
However, there are no precedents for the Constitutional Court to access this request in cases of disqualification. It remains to be seen whether the President will now serve his sentence and step down and what the response will be from the pro-independence parties and entities, but also from the streets.
The Supreme Federal Court has already disqualified a former president of the Generalitat, Artur Mas, for organizing the independence referendum on 9 November 2014. However, when he was disqualified, he was no longer in power.
Appointed as his successor by former President Carles Puigdemont, who fled Spanish justice for Belgium, Torra ends his term by an act closely related to the process and its legal consequences.
At stake is a crime of disobedience. The President ignored repeated orders from the Central Electoral Board (JEC) to remove a banner from the facade of the Palacio de la Generalidad de Cataluna calling for the freedom of “political prisoners”, alluding to the pro-independence leaders arrested for organizing the illegal referendum of 1 October.
JEC argued that the neutrality of institutions should be guaranteed during the electoral period, but Torra refused to remove the banner in the middle of the April 28, 2019 general election campaign. He was sentenced to a year and a half of disqualification and a € 30,000 fine by the Catalan Superior Court of Justice.