The Supreme Court has decided to modify the sentences of the independence process after the reform of sedition and embezzlement. The result is that Oriol Junqueras, Raül Romeva, Jordi Turull and Dolors Bassa are now convicted of disobedience in a contest with embezzlement and that their prison sentences, already pardoned, are not modified. This confirms his disqualification, so Junqueras will not be able to stand in the Catalan elections of 2025, according to the order of the Supreme Court.
Sánchez reforms the crimes of sedition and embezzlement convinced that Catalonia will be his main electoral asset
In the case of Junqueras, the Supreme Court explains that after the repeal of sedition, taking into account how the new crime of embezzlement has turned out, none of the four will see their prison sentence or disqualification modified. In the case of Oriol Junqueras, sentenced to 13 years in prison and disqualified, his sentence will expire on July 17, 2031, in Turull’s in 2030 and in Bassa’s also in 2031. This means that none of the three will be able to appear in the next Catalan elections, which should be held in the first quarter of 2025, nor in the following ones.
As for Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, they are now sentenced for public disorder and in the case of Carme Forcadell, Josep Rull and Joaquim Forn for disobedience. The Supreme Court adapts the sentences to the new Penal Code and understands that the repeal of the crime of sedition decriminalizes secessionist acts without the use of violence. In all these cases, the reform does benefit them in terms of disqualification sentences: “The entry into force of the 2022 reform determines the total extinction of their respective disqualification sentences,” he explains.
The brief of the Supreme Court, signed by Manuel Marchena as speaker, clears up the question of how the reform of sedition and embezzlement affects the leaders of the independence process. With sedition out of circulation, he maintains that the use of public media to promote the 2017 referendum and the process were a crime of embezzlement, and combines it with another of disobedience. Sedition, says the Supreme Court, cannot be replaced by public disorder.
It is a similar criterion to the one exposed by the examining magistrate of the case, Pablo Llarena, who recently also adapted the accusations of Carles Puigdemont. He kept the Catalan ex-president accused of embezzlement and disobedience, denying that the accusation of sedition was comparable to the new crime of public disorder. Prosecutors from the process had asked to maintain Junqueras’ prison sentences and disqualification for embezzlement but defending that the disappearance of sedition could be patched up with public disorder.
Strong criticism of the legal reform
The order with which the criminal chamber of the Supreme Court adapts the sentences of the 2017 process also contains strong criticism of the reform of the Penal Code promoted by the government and its partner Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, with several conclusions: the sedition committed by Junqueras is not substitutable for a crime of public disorder, similar acts are decriminalized but the use of public means to promote the referendum continues to be a serious crime of embezzlement of public funds.
Regarding whether the old sedition and the new public disorders can be assimilated, the room is clear: “It was something more than an attack against public peace,” say the judges, and it was “something more” than a crime of public disorder even though it was in that chapter of the old Penal Code. But in the case of Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, says the Supreme Court, their sedition sentence can be replaced by another one of public disorder: “They carried out acts of violence and intimidation” by leading the massive rallies on September 20, 2017 in front of the Ministry of Economy in Barcelona.
For the Supreme Court, the repeal of sedition and the incompatibility of the new public disorders leave facts like those of 2017 unpunished without taking embezzlement into account. There is a “regulatory vacuum” and “classification cracks” that lead to crime only if there is violence. In the case of the process, the judges did detect the use of violence – they repeat it several times today in their car – but not enough to speak of rebellion, as requested by the Prosecutor’s Office.
Finally, the second room deals with the reform of the crime of embezzlement, the attenuated and less serious types for cases in which there is no personal enrichment of the embezzler, and concludes that it does not benefit the convicted Catalan political leaders either. They did not give a “private” or “profitable” use to the public media used to promote the referendum, but it was not just a “different public application” nor was it “absent for profit”: everything was used, recalls the Supreme Court, for “a criminal activity driven by themselves.”
This implies, for the Supreme Court, that all continue to be sentenced for the most serious version of embezzlement, now in competition with disobedience and not sedition, but that does not benefit them at the criminal level. As for the prison sentences, they have already been extinguished by the partial pardon of the Government, and in the case of the disqualification, the Junqueras account continues to expire in July 2021. The absence of the contest between embezzlement and sedition, says the Supreme Court, “It would now allow us to move in a new punitive framework that would authorize the imposition of a minimum penalty of 15 years of disqualification.”