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The Spanish court upholds the ban on the Catalan leader Quim Torra



MADRID – The Supreme Court of Spain on Monday upheld a ruling banning Catalonia’s separatist leader from public office. This decision could renew tensions in the troubled northeastern region.

The Catalan police had put the officials on alert before the decision to confirm a possible decision against the separatist leader Quim Torra, president of the Catalan regional government. .

Monday’s ruling once again upset Catalan politics. It is expected that Mr Torra will be replaced in office by his deputy, Pere Aragonès. who represents another separatist party. Mr Torra had planned to hold early elections to bolster support for the separatist movement this year, but that plan has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit Spain particularly hard.

The case of Mr Torra is part of a long series of clashes between the Spanish central government and the judiciary against Catalan leaders who are in favor of independence. Politicians have failed to resolve the secessionist impasse for years, and it has increasingly been left to the judges to deal with it, while Catalan society has continued to split in half.

On Monday evening, Mr Torra said that Catalonia would hold elections “in the next few months” and urged his supporters to convert the vote into a referendum on independence. The Spanish government urged the region to hold further elections as soon as possible to avoid a period of political limbo in Catalonia under a caretaker administration.

Mr Torra also stated that he would appeal the decision of the highest Spanish court to the European Court of Justice. A European court, Torra said, “is the only place where Catalan independence activists, as well as the just and legitimate reason for independence, can find justice.”

The case against Mr Torra centers on his refusal last year to ditch yellow ribbons and other signs showing solidarity with the separatist movement, contrary to an order from the electoral commission in Madrid. The commission had ordered that all partisan symbols should be removed from public buildings during the political campaign leading up to the Spanish elections in April 2019.

The ribbons had become a means of supporting the separatist leaders. who were later convicted in 2019 for trying unsuccessfully to declare independence two years earlier.

Mr Torra repeatedly defied orders to withdraw symbols of independence and a Barcelona court ruled in December that his refusal to delete them constituted civil disobedience. It banned him from serving for 18 months and caused Mr. Torra to appeal to the Supreme Court.

On Monday, several Spanish politicians welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision against him. Inés Arrimadas, the leader of the Ciudadanos party, said that “justice has been done”.

“Public spaces belong to everyone, and a political leader cannot break the law to flood them with separatist propaganda,” Ms. Arrimadas wrote on Twitter.

The separatist majority, which controls the regional parliament, elected Mr Torra as leader of Catalonia in 2018. The former incumbent, Carles Puigdemont, was ousted by the Spanish government in October 2017 for illegally attempting to resign and had left the country to avoid arrest and prosecution.

Since then, Mr Puigdemont has been struggling to extradite him from Belgium in order for his part to stand on trial for the failed independence efforts. Despite being on hiatus abroad, he continued to influence Catalan politics and won a seat in the European Parliament last year.


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