Supreme Court does not dare overturn the pardons
The third chamber of the Supreme Court has dismissed the appeals filed against the pardons of Catalan political prisoners with an argument that allows it to avoid having to enter into the merits of the case. What it has determined is that the parties (PP, Vox and Cs), entities and individuals who filed the appeals are not legitimised to do so. Although there is still the possibility of appealing the decision, everything points to the end of the nightmare of the prison sentences that the second chamber of the same court imposed on nine political and social leaders of the independence movement.
Although this was the most expected outcome, experience advised us not to rule out the Court ending up overturning the pardons. It would have been a scandal, an inadmissible interference of one power –the judiciary– in the sphere of competence of another –the executive– but surely some were dreaming of this possibility.
In this sense, there are three factors that may have helped the Spanish judiciary to make the most legally correct decision. The first is that it is clear that never before has Spanish justice felt under such European scrutiny. The repeated failures of Judge Pablo Llarena to obtain the extradition of former president Carles Puigdemont and the other exiles have made Spanish judges think twice before risking European disavowal. The Catalan case has served to highlight the distance that still separates Spanish judges from their European counterparts, who provide more guarantees and are more neutral ideologically. They may still have to face the humiliation of Puigdemont entering Spain one day protected by the immunity conferred by the fact that he is an MEP.
Secondly, it should be noted that, contrary to many predictions, Spanish public opinion has accepted without great signs of rejection a measure that had an obvious political risk. It is true that Pedro Sánchez needed and needs the votes of the pro-independence supporters to prop up his government and to move forward with his projects, but it would be mean not to recognise the courage of having gone ahead with the pardons when many in the PSOE saw them as a kind of political suicide.
And, thirdly, it is unthinkable that there would have been pardons without the massive and sustained mobilisation of Catalan society in favour of political prisoners, and the broad and transversal support that the demand had within Catalonia. All those demonstrations and initiatives of solidarity with the prisoners also served to put pressure on the Spanish government and to highlight the injustice represented by the sentences, and attract international attention.
All this created a fertile ground for pardons, since the prisoners ended up becoming a political and reputational problem for Spain in international organisations