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Constitutional Court annuls Catalan independence declaration

The law passed by the regional parliament on September 7 that paved the way for the October 1 referendum has also been struck down by the tribunal

Spain’s Constitutional Court, in Madrid.
Spain’s Constitutional Court, in Madrid. EFE

Spain’s Constitutional Court annulled on Wednesday the unilateral declaration of independence that was voted through the Catalan parliament on October 27, as well as striking down the law that the same chamber approved on September 7 that paved the way for the October 1 independence referendum in the region.

Both the independence declaration and the so-called “rupture law” had already been suspended by the Constitutional Court after legal challenges were filed by the central government in Madrid.

The right to autonomy  “is not, nor can it be confused with, sovereignty”

In its decision, one of the country’s highest courts classed the independence declaration as a “serious attack on the rule of law,” and reminded the Catalan parliament that the right to autonomy – as granted by the Spanish Constitution and self-rule Catalan Statute – “is not, nor can it be confused with, sovereignty.”

The court has also passed onto the public prosecutor a probe into the actions of the speaker of the Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell, and members of her speaker’s committee, to investigate whether they may constitute a crime. Forcadell presided over the two parliamentary sessions when the rupture law and the independence declaration were voted on.

In its ruling, the court points out that the parliament tabled two motions, one of which contained the “express declaration of independence of Catalonia.” This, the ruling continues, was despite the clear warnings of the Parliament General Secretary and the Chief legal counsel” of the potential illegality of such a vote.

“The Catalan parliament assumed functions that are intrinsic to sovereignty, and that are superior to those that derive from the autonomy recognized by the Constitution,” the court continued, adding that the actions constituted a “serious attack” against the rule of law and infringe “democratic principles.”

The actions constituted a “serious attack” against the rule of law and infringe “democratic principles”

In the wake of the independence declaration, the Senate approved the activation of Article 155 of the Constitution, which paved the way for Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to suspend the region’s autonomy, sack the entire regional government, and call new elections for December 21. The High Court is now investigating former ministers in the Catalan government on charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of funds. Former regional premier Carles Puigdemont and four of his one-time ministers are currently in Brussels, having fled there the day that charges were announced against them. The former deputy premier, Oriol Junqueras, and eight other former cabinet members are being held in pre-trial custody inside Madrid penitentiaries.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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