Courts
Politics 15/09/2021

Torrent warns Catalan High Court that vetoing parliamentary debate can create a "harmful precedent"

Costa does not appear before the court and Campdepadrós alleges that the resolution against the sentencing of pro-independence leaders only had declarative value

3 min
Roger Torrent entering TSJC

BarcelonaOn the same day that the negotiating table met , the pro-independence members of the last Parliamentary Bureau – Roger Torrent, Josep Costa, Eusebi Campdepadrós and Adriana Delgado – were summoned to testify as accused before Catalonia's High Court for having processed resolutions in favour of self-determination and against the monarchy despite the warnings of the Constitutional Court. All appeared in court except Costa, who on Twitter explained that he does not recognise the court's "authority" to "judge parliament's agreements". Torrent, Delgado and Campdepadrós have defended MPs' freedom of speech and argued that the Constitutional Court's warning was ambiguous. According to court sources, Torrent emphasised the defence of parliamentary inviolability. "We explained that if we are sentenced it will lay a bad precedent from a democratic point of view," the former Speaker said after testifying.

The Public Prosecutor's Office brought a lawsuit against Torrent and the rest of the bureau as a result of the resolution passed by Parliament in response to the sentencing of pro-independence leaders. The text agreed between JxCat, ERC and CUP – after many internal tensions – defended Catalonia's right to self-determination and reproached Felipe VI, despite warnings from the Constitutional Court. The Public Prosecutor considers that the Constitutional Court's warning was clear and that the bureau should have prevented the resolution from being debated and voted on in the plenary.

Roger Torrent arriving at Catalonia's High Court accompanied by Oriol Junqueras

Inside the courtroom, Torrent, Delgado and Campdepadrós – who only answered their lawyers' questions – used two lines of defence. On the one hand, they have argued that the Constitutional Court's warnings were ambiguous and, on the other, they have insisted on the defence of freedom of speech. Campdepadrós, who is a lawyer, was longer in his statements. According to judicial sources, the former MP explained to questions from his lawyer, Jordi Pina, that one of the Constitutional Court's notifications arrived by email once the resolution had already been debated and voted on. He has also stressed that the text only had declarative value but no legal effects, unlike previous resolutions which have ended the courts, including those passed in 2017.

The former MP, Torrent and Delgado have stressed that the Court's warnings were "vague and inconcrete", in Torrent's words, who, to questions from his lawyer, Andreu Van den Eynde, has explained that the Parliament's secretary general told them not to paralyse the procedure. Delgado – defended by Olga Arderiu – has added that before the ambiguity the lawyers of the chamber concluded that the parliamentary debate had to prevail. "We do not understand that there is any resolution of any court that prohibits parliamentary debates understood as an expression of public interest, and it is clear that self-determination and the monarchy are of public interest," Torrent insisted.

Freedom of speech has been the other main line of defence. Torrent has explained that the Bureau is obliged to act with "neutrality", allowing all debates. "We did what we had to do," he insisted. The Campdepadrós's defence also contributed the sentences of the European Court of Human Rights supporting the debate on the monarchy. Both Costa and Campdepadrós have appealed against the Constitutional Court's warnings to Strasbourg. Costa also asked the Constitutional Court to suspend the summons and today he did not show up. Now we will have to see if magistrate Maria Eugenia Alegret compels him to testify. At the moment, none of the parties has asked for it.

The accused were escorted by members of ERC, JxCat, the CUP and sovereigntist entities, among whom were current Speaker Laura Borràs and the ex-vice-president Oriol Junqueras. They have criticised the State's "repression". Borràs claimed the former Bureau members are being investigated for "doing their job", while Marcel Mauri (Òmnium) demanded a joint strategy from the independence movement to confront repression. President Pere Aragonès expressed his support via Twitter: "Parliament has to be the guarantor of freedom of expression and uncensored debate on issues of public interest".

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