The high court has sentenced Catalonia’s foreign minister Bernat Solé to one year of disqualification and a €16,800 fine for his role in the 2017 independence push as mayor of Agramunt. The decision is not final and can be appealed to the Spanish Supreme Court.
The court found that Solé had personal and direct knowledge of the Spanish Constitutional Court’s decisions regarding the laws passed by the Catalan Parliament in 2017 about the referendum, and the consequences for going against them. They also accuse Solé of providing a public building on 25 September 2017 to host an event encouraging the referendum.
They claim he “had an active and decisive role in the development” of the plebiscite on 1 October 2017, taking part in activities such as “hiding ballot boxes in safe places” and “moving forward the closing of the polls”, which Solé had previously denied at his trial.
During the session on 14 December 2020, Solé stated that he did not take part in the organization of the vote in Agramunt. He did admit to have taken part in a debate on the referendum in his village, but as a political representative and not as mayor. He also said that he did not grant access to the school for the vote, but he did try to avoid damages to the educational center by Spain’s Guardia Civil police trying to persuade the vote organizers to not hide the ballot boxes inside the building.
Support for Solé
Many Catalan pro-referendum politicians have come out on social media in support for Solé. “The Spanish justice system cannot decide who is and is not president or who is or is not a minister”, wrote on Twitter Laura Borràs, the presidential candidate for JxCat. These calls were joined by many others including parliament speaker Roger Torrent who branded the sentence “a new act of revenge against the independence push.”
“All of my support in front of this unjust sentence, which has done nothing more than prove that repression remains intact. More than three years have passed since the referendum and the Spanish state continues to repress without sign of slowing down,” added exiled Catalan president Carles Puidgemont, the leader of the 2017 independence push.
Another brick in the wall
Should the Supreme Court uphold the disobedience verdict, Solé would become the second member of the current Catalan cabinet to be disqualified, after president Quim Torra was removed from office last fall.
Foreign minister Solé is only the latest in a long list of Catalan officials and activists facing prosecution for their role in the 2017 push to hold a referendum and separate from Spain.
In the most notable of all cases, six former members of the Catalan government two activists and the former parliament speaker were sentenced for sedition to serve between 9 and 13 years in prison, whom fellow pro-independence supporters see as political prisoners.