Meritxell Serret avoids prison over Referendum as prosecution drops embezzlement charges
Judge Llarena had already pointed out that he only saw indications of disobedience when the former Catalan minister returned from exile
MadridFormer Catalan Minister for Agriculture Meritxell Serret will not go to prison over the 2017 referendum. Her new defence –led by lawyer Íñigo Iruin– has succeeded in its strategy, based on the outcome of the trial of the Independence Bid leaders. The prosecutions (Prosecutor's Office, State Attorney's Office and Vox) have presented their briefs before Supreme Court's criminal chamber decides on a hearing, and all three have thrown out accusations of embezzlement of public funds. Instead, they focus on a crime of disobedience, which does not carry prison sentences. In addition, if the same logic is followed as with the former members of the Catalan Parliament's Bureau, Serret would be tried in Catalonia
Last May, the investigating judge, Pablo Llarena, concluded the summary without formally ruling out embezzlement. Serret had been prosecuted for this crime when she was still in exile, but on March 11, 2021 she decided to return home and take up her seat in the Parliament. Why? The Supreme Court acquitted some former Ministers such as Joaquim Forn and Josep Rull of the crime of embezzlement as no payments for the referendum were directly linked to their departments. This would also seem to be the case at the Agriculture Department. Serret appeared before the Supreme Court and was released without bail. Llarena wrote: "The current state of the investigation does not reflect concrete expenses effectively supported from the department of which she was a minister".
The path ahead seemed clear, although Llarena was not very explicit about whether embezzlement was ruled out. High court sources stressed that it was not his role either, but that it was up to the prosecution to decide whether they still wanted to press charges for this crime or not. They decided not to.
Anna Gabriel's situation
Serret was the first to leave exile, and in a situation similar to hers is former CUP MP Anna Gabriel. She is only being prosecuted for disobedience, but she will soon be in Switzerland for four years because she suspects that the accusation could still change its criteria and charge her with sedition. Her defence alleges that the State Attorney's Office demanded her return in order to be able to formulate an accusation, and interprets that the door is open to modifying the current situation. Now, with Serret's precedent, the path is clearer for Gabriel, although for the moment she remains in exile.