The myriad of judicial cases stemming from the 2017 Catalan referendum continue to progress – on Wednesday, the five members of the electoral board formed to monitor the plebiscite had to go to court. They face a two-day trial in a Barcelona local criminal court in which the public prosecutor has requested sentences of 2 years and 9 months in jail. They are being charged with disobedience and overtaking of public office, but not misuse of funds as originally planned.
If this is not accepted by the court, the prosecutor requests an alternative conviction for displaying disobedience towards judicial decrees, carrying a €5,400 fine for each and a year barred from monitoring elections. Politics and law professors Marc Marsal, Josep Pagès, Tània Verge and Jordi Matas are accused in this case, and their universities’ rectors supported them ahead of the trial. Girona lawyer Marta Alsina also faces the judicial procedure.
On Wednesday morning, pro-independence party officials gathered outside Barcelona’s Ciutat de la Justícia, where the trial is being held, to offer support to the accused individuals. A group of lawyers in their professional robes also showed support. They believe that the trial is yet another example of “repression” coming from the Spanish state, which feels particularly significant now as pro-independence parties won the biggest vote share ever in the recent 14 February election.
Meanwhile unionist parties such as Ciudadanos stated that the former electoral authority members were “separatist academics, outstanding when it comes to sectarianism but failing at empathizing with Catalans whose rights were eradicated.”
Fine of €12,000 per day
When the referendum law (the law which enabled it) was passed in parliament in a plenary session on 6 September 2017, a five-member board to monitor the vote was also approved. A few days later, Spain’s Constitutional Court threatened to impose a fine of €12,000 per day if they continued in their positions. They had been presented with several previous warnings stating that they had to step down because the referendum had been deemed illegal.
The government accepted the abolition of a referendum monitoring authority after they stepped down on 26 September, a week before the vote. Yet, three and a half years later they are now facing a trial that has already been postponed three times.
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