Case

Catalan speaker Carme Forcadell, sentenced to more than 11 years in prison

Forcadell testifies before Court for allowing a debate on Catalonia’s independence. / Catalan News (16-12-2016)

Description

Carme Forcadell was elected president (speaker) of the Parliament of Catalonia on 26 October, 2015, and held office until 27 October, 2017, when she was forced to resign after the Spanish Senate suspended the autonomy of Catalonia. In this period she faced many trials for allowing debates on Catalonia’s independence

After more than 600 days in pre-trial detention, on 14 October, 2019, Carme Forcadell was condemned to 11 and a half years in prison for the crime of sedition to. She is also banned from public office for the same period.

Forcadell warns Spain against “restricting the freedom of a democratic parliament”. / Catalan News (08-05-2017)

Big crowd supports Parliament President Forcadell as she faces High Court for allowing independence debate / Catalan News (08-05-2017)

MEPS from different parties comment on Forcadell’s prosecution and call for dialogue. / Catalan News (12-05-2017)

Before

Prior to being elected president of the Parliament as a member of the coalition Junts pel Sí, Carme Forcadell had been the president of
the proindependence organization Assemblea Nacional Catalana (ANC) —the current president of this organizaton, Mr. Jordi Sànchez, is also in prison— . Under her presidency, the ANC organized the great demonstrations of September 11, and the association became an important asset of Catalan politics.

As president of the Parliament, Forcadell presided over the
parliamentary debates that would give rise to the Referendum Law and the Legal Transitory Law, which had to give legal coverage to the holding of the
referendum on 1 October and the subsequent application of the results. On 27 October, Forcadell presided over the plenary that approved the declaration of independence. This statement was never published in the official journals, so it has never produced any legal effects.

On that same day, the Spanish Senate, at the request of the
Spanish government, agreed to the application of article 155 of the
Constitution to dissolve the parliament of Catalonia and to dismiss the highest public officers of the government. Forcadell was stopped as the president of the Parliament.

On 30 October 2017, the Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Carme Forcadell and the rest of the members of the parliamentary board
who had allowed, with their votes, the processing of the declaration of
independence.

On 9 November, the Supreme Court decreed a € 250.000 bail
for Carme Forcadell. The president of the parliament spent one night in the
Madrid prison of Alcalá Meco, and the following day the solidarity box promoted by the independentist organizations paid the bail. The other members of the board were released, with lower bails as the only precautionary measure. Joan Josep Nuet was an exception, as he was not imposed any precautionary measure with the argument that, although the facts were the same as those of his colleagues, Nuet was not in favor of independence.

In December of that same year, Carme Forcadell was elected
a member of the Parliament of Catalonia for the candidature of Esquerra
Republicana de Catalunya. On 22 March, one day before attending the Supreme Court, Carme Forcadell resigned as a member of the Parliament because she did not want “her personal situation to be an obstacle to the sovereignty of the Parliament”.

The speaker of Catalonia’s parliament and five of its members have appeared before Spain’s Supreme Court in Madrid. / EuroNews  (09-11-2017)

Carme Forcadell testifies at the trial in which she was sentenced to 11 and a half years in prison. (26-02-2019)

The outcome

On 23 March, Forcadell – along with the rest of the defendants – traveled to Madrid to attend the act of notification of the prosecution. The judge Pablo Llarena decided to prosecute the president of the Parliament for a rebellion crime with the argument that Forcadell had allowed the parliamentary debates that would lead to the referendum and the statement about the independence. The truth is that the rebellion crime, as drafted in the Criminal Code, demands that there has been a “violent uprising”, and Llarena does not argue that this violence has existed in real terms in the investigated events.

The same day, Pablo Llarena decreed preventive prison without bail for Carme Forcadell, along with the former ministers Jordi Turull, Josep Rull, Raül Romeva and Dolors Bassa. Former vicepresident Oriol Junqueras, the former minister Joaquim Forn and the social leaders Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart were already in jail.

The resolution that dictates the imprisonment of Carme Forcadell says that there is a risk of escape because the possible penalties to which they are confronted are very high. It also argues that other defendants have left the country, and thus it transfers the consequences of acts of third parties to the defendants who always attended the court. The resolution also says that there is a risk of criminal reiteration, although Forcadell had already resigned as an MP.

On 14 October, 2019, the trial’s resolution was made public and Carme Forcadell was sentenced to 11 years and 6 months in prison, and banned from holding public office for the same length of time, for the crime of sedition. 

Some 500 international politicians demand the immediate release of the former Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell, currently in jail. The support includes politicians from the European parliament and national chambers in countries such as Germany, France and Italy, several speakers such as those from Flanders and Wales, and dozens of former MPs. Meanwhile, Spain’s Constitutional Court confirmed today the temporary suspension of Carles Puigdemont and 5 jailed leaders, as MPs. This has led to pro-independence parties losing their majority in Parliament. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has again rejected the release of three of the incarcerated Catalan officials. / Catalan News (13-12-2018)

Violated rights

The prosecution of Carme Forcadell is a violation of the right to self-determination of peoples, enshrined in article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It also constitutes an attack on freedom of thought, expression and assembly, rights that are also protected by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the European Convention on Human Rights. A paradigmatic example of the attack on freedom of thought is the fact that the Supreme Court agreed to the release without precautionary measures of Joan Josep Nuet simply because he was not a pro-independence politician, although the facts were exactly the same as those of the rest of his colleagues from the parliament board.

On the other hand, the preventive prison of Carme Forcadell contravenes the right to presumption of innocence and supposes an attack on the right to freedom and security.

The appeal of the preventive prision of Carme Forcadell has been lying on the table of the Constitutional Court for more than one year. At the moment, the Spanish institutions are adopting an obstruction attitude with respect to the procedures of the political prisoners in order to avoid that they can go to international bodies.

The rights violated during the trial are summarized in a report from International Trial Warch. 

Carme Forcadell, Speaker of the Catalan Parliament / Jordi Borràs

References

Spanish government seeks criminal charges against Catalan leader. Reuters (in English)

TC urges to open a criminal case against Catalan Parliament President. Catalan News (in English)

Spanish Prosecutor urges to file complaint against Forcadell for disobedience. Catalan News (in English)

Parliament’s President to testify before the court on 16 December. Catalan News (in English)

British MPs report Forcadell’s “prosecution” to the Parliament and warn it may set “a dangerous precedent”. Catalan News (in English)

Catalan MEPs report Forcadell’s prosecution to European Parliament plenary session. Catalan News (in English)

Catalan parliament speaker in court for holding independence vote. Reuters (in English)

Forcadell says her trial “puts democracy at risk”. Catalan News (in English)

Swiss MPs add to international outcry over Forcadell’s prosecution. Catalan News (in English)

British MPs defend Catalonia’s democratic right to call a referèndum. Catalan News (in English)

Further lawsuits against Forcadell and members of Parliament Bureau over referendum proposal. Catalan News (in English)

Catalan parliament’s Forcadell: ‘I’m going to vote, come what may’. POLITICO (in English)

Catalan MPs take plenary suspension to European Court of Human Rights. Catalan News (in English)

Catalan speaker freed on bail but gagged for election campaign. Reuters (in English)

Carme Forcadell to run in December 21 elections for ERC. Catalan News (in English)

Carme Forcadell will not continue as Parliament president. Catalan News (in English)

Spanish court charges Catalan leaders with rebellion. POLITICO (in English)

Jailed speaker tells judge her imprisonment would happen ‘nowhere else’. Catalan News (in English)

Former parliament speaker takes case to human rights court. Catalan News (in English)

Supreme Court rejects releasing jailed pro-independence leaders until verdict is out. Catalan News (in English)

Spain’s prosecutor confirms rebellion charges for Catalan leaders and requests up to 25 years in jail. Catalan News (in English)

2017 parliament bureau members to face trial between November 19 and 22. Catalan News (in English)

Catalan Separatist Leaders Get Lengthy Prison Terms for Sedition. The New York Times (in English)

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