Llarena exhibits Serret's provisional freedom to avoid being challenged by Puigdemont

Supreme Court magistrate denies bias in the Independence bid case in the face of the defence's attempt to remove him

Cesc Maideu
2 min
Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena when he received the award.

Barcelona"In 2011 this magistrate received the medal of merit of Barcelona's Guàrdia Urbana delivered by Mayor Xavier Trias, of the same party as Carles Puigdemont, and when Quim Forn was first deputy mayor of Barcelona." "No impartial observer could see a lack of impartiality when Meritxell Serret appeared voluntarily before this magistrate and her freedom was agreed." "This magistrate has not appreciated that there are indications of criminality against some of those who were indicted in this procedure, such as Artur Mas, Marta Pascal or Neus Lloveras." Faced with the challenge presented by Puigdemont and the exiled former Catalan ministers, after he accepted an award from an entity that "fully defends the ideology of the far right" –in the defence's words–, the Villacisneros Foundation, the Supreme Court magistrate Pablo Llarena answered that this distinction does not affect his impartiality as neither did that of the Guàrdia Urbana, received 10 years ago, and he tries to demonstrate it by listing "favourable" decisions for the defence.

In early December, Puigdemont's lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, challenged the Supreme Court magistrate because a month earlier he had received an award from the Villacisneros Foundation. This fact, according to Boye, denoted his lack of impartiality and made it necessary to remove him from the case. Llarena, however, rejects the accusations and defends himself: he affirms that this does not affect his "public credibility" and, in any case, the fact that he received the award does not mean that he agrees with the ideology of the entity.

But his arguments do not stop there, and he looks to the archive to deny any "persecution" or "enmity" with exiles. He does so by assuring that he has taken decisions "favorable to the defence" as, in his opinion, the release on bail for the members of the Parliamentary bureau led by Carme Forcadell; that former Catalan ministers such as Santi Vila, Meritxell Borràs and Carles Mundó were not put behind bars while the trial of the Independence bid lasted; that Meritxell Serret was provisionally released; that pro-independence leaders such as Mas, Pascal and Lloveras were not prosecuted; or that several of those involved were not initially charged with sedition or rebellion.

Boye's brief "undermines the real picture"

In his challenge, Boye pointed to several people linked to the foundation and argued that some of them had considered the Independence bid to be a "coup d'état". Boye cited the former president of the Community of Madrid Esperanza Aguirre, the former PP minister Jaime Mayor Oreja or Hermann Tertsch, Vox MP in the European Parliament. In view of this, Llarena has harshly criticised Boye's brief, stating that it operates as an "instrument of augmented reality" and "undermines the real picture".

He justifies this by pointing out that the defense introduces the "foundation's aims" and references to the thinking or political affiliation of some of the members of the board of directors, but "hides" that the award was granted by decision of the board of trustees, which is made up of people whose curriculum, says Llarena, the defence does not review in the brief. In turn, the magistrate also criticises that the challenge does not analyse the speech given when he received the award.

All in all, Llarena takes up the Supreme Court's doctrine on impartiality and concludes that "objectively unreasonable suspicions" are not enough to expel a judge. If this were not so, he says, we would be facing a system of "judge à la carte".