Supreme Court rejects the appeals against pardon of Independence bid leaders

Court considers PP, Cs and Vox are not legitimised to challenge the pardons

3 min
Political prisoners

Madrid / BarcelonaThe pardon of political prisoners will not be repealed, after the third chamber of the Supreme Court dismissed the appeals filed by PP, Vox and Cs. The court considers that the parties are not entitled to challenge the pardons and, therefore, the judges will not even have to analyse the case and determine whether Pedro Sánchez broke the law when granting the measure of grace. The procedure has not passed the preliminary phase in which it looks to see if MPs, parties and organisations that appealed the pardons were entitled to do so. The State Attorney's Office, representing the Spanish government, had argued they weren't. The court agreed.

The high court's decision comes six months and 26 days after the political prisoners were released from prison in what was one of Pedro Sánchez's most risky manoeuvres as Prime Minister. Sánchez argued that it was the "best decision for Catalonia and Spain" for the benefit of "coexistence". The Moncloa admitted that in Europe it was not fully understood that nine political and social leaders had been in prison for almost four years and the start of the dialogue table was complicated by this anomaly. The concession took a year and a half since the first request was presented, but at the end of 2020 Sánchez opened the door to them in a clear way.

The right criticised from the beginning that pardons were the real bargaining chip for ERC's support to PSOE and Unidas Podemos's first state budget, especially because ERC did not obtain any other political agreement. In contrast, in 2021 they fought for Catalan language in the audiovisual law. The Prosecutor's Office and the court that judged the Independence bid, presided over by Manuel Marchena, pointed in this direction and warned that the measure of grace could not be used to maintain the parliamentary majorities. Some of the beneficiaries are leaders of the parties that, "today, guarantee the stability of the Spanish government," the Supreme Court stressed.

Barely a week after the release, the PP already filed an appeal for each measure of grace granted, but it did not stop there: some of its MPs and former MPs in the Catalan Parliament (Alejandro Fernández, Santi Rodríguez, Andrea Levy, Juan Milián and Lorena Roldán) also appealed, as did the former delegate of the Spanish government in Catalonia, Enric Millo. Cs leaders Inés Arrimadas, Carlos Carrizosa and José Maria Espejo-Saavedra, members of Parliament during the 2017 legislature, also appealed. Organisations Convivencia Cívica Catalana and Pro Patrimonium Sijena y Jerusalén also saw how their legal challenges were thrown out. Finally, Vox, which was part of the accusation in the original trial, also had its case thrown out.

No formula has borne fruit, not even Ciudadanos' inventive strategy. Last October it asked the Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional part of the 1870 pardon law; specifically, the bit that refers to the possibility of granting the measure of grace for reasons of "public utility". As explained by Cs spokesman in the Spanish Parliament Edmundo Bal, this was the first time that this justification was used and allowed pardoning for "political reasons". Bal, who was also a State Attorney, boasted of having succeeded in finding the way to repeal the pardons, yet it has not delivered.

Vox will appeal to the TC

According to the Supreme Court, the full content of the resolution and the argumentation will be made known in the coming days. The parties and organisations that challenged the pardons can still file an appeal for reconsideration of the current resolution, but it would be resolved by the same judges. They can also go to the Constitutional Court if they consider that fundamental rights have been violated. This Vox will do so, as its parliamentary spokesperson Macarena Olona announced: "Our position is not the same as other parties'".

Prior to Thursday's decision, the Supreme Court had already rejected the precautionary suspension of the measure of grace that Cs and Vox had requested. In recent months, the Supreme Court had already been giving indirect endorsements to the pardons. First, it did so by rejecting a complaint against the president of the Spanish government filed by the ultra-right Spanish Liberal Right party over the measure of grace. In this case, it threw out any criminal charges. A recourse to administrative law was the only possible way to reverse the pardons, but the fact that the third chamber dismissed the appeals by the PP and Vox against the appointment of Dolores Delgado as attorney general was already an indication of what would end up happening this Thursday.