Anna Gabriel returns from exile and places herself at the Spanish Supreme Court's disposal

Former MP, who will be summoned to testify in the coming days and plans to continue living in Switzerland, seeks to regain "freedom of movement"

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Former CUP MP Anna Gabriel during the conference on human rights in the Spanish state at the UN headquarters in Geneva

BarcelonaFormer CUP MP Anna Gabriel has returned this Tuesday after almost five years of exile in Switzerland in order to appear before the Spanish Supreme Court (SSC). This was reported by surprise this morning by the court itself in a statement. Gabriel appeared accompanied by her lawyer, Iñigo Iruín Sanz, who also represents the former Catalan minister Meritxell Serret. In fact, Serret was the first exile to return to the country, and Gabriel just the second. After appearing before SSC judge Pablo Llarena, she was summoned for questioning in the near future and was subsequently released. Gabriel plans to return to Switzerland today.

"After four and a half years of exile, today is a necessary procedural step to regain freedom of movement, which I should never have lost; neither I nor anyone else," the former MP explained in a statement of her own. Gabriel said she decided to take the step this Tuesday after a "series of considerations, reflections and analyses that have to do both with the general political and judicial context as with a series of personal circumstances". Gabriel did not want to make any further considerations, alleging that "there will be time to talk calmly about everything".

Under Supreme Court investigation for an alleged crime of disobedience for her role in the events of autumn 2017, Gabriel had been living in exile in Switzerland since February 2018. From day one she decided to keep a low profile and has made few appearances little both on traditional and social media. One of the latest news about her was that she was elected Geneva regional secretary of trade union Unia, Switzerland's main union, which has over 200,000 members. She became the first woman to hold the position

Precisely, Gabriel explained that because of the "professional and personal responsibilities she has acquired", she will go back to Switzerland to continue living and working in the same place as before, in Geneva. Despite this fleeting return, she wanted to make it clear that her political and social commitments remain where they were: "With my country, with its people, and especially with all the victims of repression". One of the first signs of support came from someone who, like her, went into exile in Switzerland. ERC general secretary Marta Rovira expressed her full support: "I wish you luck and success in the roads to come, which will surely be in freedom". The Catalan government, through its spokesperson, Patrícia Plaja, sent a message of support to Gabriel as a "victim of repression". "On behalf of the Catalan government, if she decides to return to Catalonia she will be welcomed. Let's celebrate this new step so that she can do it in freedom," she stressed.

Fine and ban from office

The Supreme Court's statement explains there was no European or international arrest warrant against the former MP since the crime of disobedience she stands accused of to her does not entail imprisonment. Instead, she could be fined for twelve months and banned from office for two years. On the other hand, there was a warrant for her arrest as soon as she set foot in the State. so that she may appear before a judge, which is what she did today. After being questioned by Judge Llarena, she was released. Llarena also informed that he has dropped the contempt of court charges against Gabriel, as well as the search and arrest warrant should she return Spain. However, the magistrate also gave several warnings: Gabriel must leave an address and telephone number where she can be located "immediately"; she has the obligation to appear in court as many times as necessary and has been warned that, if she does not comply with all this, her current "personal situation" may be subject to change.

The only precedent to have any clue about Gabriel's future is Serret's case. After returning in March of 2021, at the end of the following month she appeared before Judge Llarena and admitted to having gone ahead with 2017 Independence Referendum despite the Constitutional Court's warnings. She denied, however, having paid any expenses for the referendum from her department. A year later, the Supreme Court announced that it was opening a trial for disobedience. dropping the charge of embezzlement, and sent the case to Catalonia's High Court. Thus, Serret is now awaiting trial. The remaining exiles are Marta Rovira, former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and former Catalan ministers Lluís Puig, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí.