Catalan leader cannot leave jail to attend debate, court rules

Regional presidency candidate Jordi Sànchez refused permission to go to investiture debate

Spain’s supreme court has ruled that the jailed Catalan independence leader chosen to run for the regional presidency cannot leave prison to attend an investiture debate next week.

Jordi Sànchez, the former head of the influential grassroots organisation Catalan National Assembly (ANC), has been in custody for five months over allegations that he and another civil society group leader used huge demonstrations to try to stop Spanish police officers from following a judge’s orders to halt the unilateral independence referendum held on 1 October last year.

Last week, the deposed Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, announced he was “provisionally” abandoning his attempts to return to office and anointed Sànchez, an MP in his Together for Catalonia party, as his preferred candidate.

On Friday afternoon, a supreme court judge refused an application for Sànchez to be released temporarily to attend Monday’s debate.

The judge, Pablo Llarena, said there was a risk Sànchez could reoffend by seeking to carry on pushing for secession from Spain. He also said that Sànchez’s legal predicament meant his candidacy “would not offer voters the leadership that is now required”.

The ANC responded by tweeting: “Llarena denies @jordialapreso freedom and permission to be invested. When a perversion of justice comes through the door, collective freedom jumps out of the window. Freedom!”

Although Sànchez had been the agreed candidate of the two main independence parties – Together for Catalonia and the Catalan Republican Left party – the smaller, anti-capitalist, pro-independence Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) refused to support his bid. One CUP MP said too much attention was being paid to who would run for president, when the most pressing matter was the creation of a Catalan republic.

Puigdemont, still buoyed by the pro-independence parties’ victory in last December’s election, has not ruled out the prospect of fresh polls to end the latest impasse.

“It is no tragedy if there are new elections, although it is not the priority and no one desires it,” he said in an interview on Friday with the Catalan nationalist newspaper El Punt Avui.


Sam Jones in Madrid

The GuardianTramp

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