Spanish Court docket Upholds Ban on Catalan Chief

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 northeast region.

The Catalan police had put the officers 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 Catalans are now expected to elect a new parliament early next year.

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.

The case against Mr Torra focuses 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 tapes had become a vehicle to aid separatist leaders who were later convicted in 2019 for trying unsuccessfully to declare independence two years earlier. A Barcelona court ruled in December that his refusal to remove the tapes and other symbols constituted civil disobedience, banned him from office for 18 months and ordered Mr. Torra to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Mr Torra was selected as the replacement leader for Catalonia in 2018 by the separatist majority of legislators who control the regional parliament. The former incumbent, Carles Puigdemont, was ousted by the Spanish government in October 2017 for illegally attempting to resign.

Since then, Mr Puigdemont has been fighting to extradite him from Belgium to stand trial for his part in the failed independence effort. Although he is on hiatus abroad, he continued to influence Catalan politics and last year won a seat in the European Parliament that he was not allowed to take.

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