Location Spain Spain

Jailed activist proposed as presidential candidate in Catalonia

Largest pro-independence parties resume bid to appoint Jordi Sànchez following UN’s call on Spain to respect his political rights.

Jordi Sànchez, a Catalan activist jailed since mid-October, has been proposed as presidential candidate by the parliament speaker Roger Torrent. Sànchez’s first bid for office was blocked by the Spanish judiciary a month ago.

Pro-independence parties resume their endeavor to appoint Sànchez as head of government following the United Nations call on Spain to respect his political rights, after their first attempt failed when the Supreme Court did not allow him to attend the parliament in order to be sworn in.

Sànchez entered prison almost six months ago. He faces criminal charges of rebellion, carrying prison sentences of up to 30 years, for his role in Catalonia’s push for independence as a civil society leader.

Sànchez, the former president of the grassroots Catalan National Assembly (ANC) organization, was elected as an MP in an election last December. He is a member of Junts per Catalunya (JxCat), the party of the deposed president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdeont.

Torrent completed a round of talks with all parties on Friday. Sànchez was the candidate with the most supports, as the two largest pro-independence groups in the chamber, JxCat and Esquerra Republicana (ERC), backed his candidacy.

  • “[Jordi] Sànchez’s political rights as an MP remain intact. Therefore, he can be elected as president of the government”

Carles Puigdemont · Deposed Catalan president

The UN Human Rights Committee has urged the Spanish authorities to take “all necessary measures to ensure” that Sànchez “can exercise his political rights.” In a statement released in March, the Geneva-based institution confirmed that it was studying a petition by Sànchez’s defense team.

A spokesperson for JxCat, Eduard Pujol, said on Friday that the UN’s statement posed an “exceptional” opportunity. Yet, the Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena has yet to decide whether he will allow Sànchez to attend the chamber. Last time, he alleged that neither JxCat or ERC had given up independence plans, and therefore Sànchez’s release posed the risk of repeated offence.

Yet, it is not certain that Sànchez’s bid for office will succeed even if the Spanish court allows him to attend the chamber. Anti-capitalist CUP, the smallest pro-independence party in parliament, has refused to back the grassroots leader.

The far-left party says that Puigdemont, dismissed by the Spanish government following a declaration of independence last October, remains the only legitimate president.

Puigdemont backed Sànchez as presidential candidate on Saturday. “Sànchez’s political rights as an MP remain intact. Therefore, he can be elected as president of the government.” The deposed president is currently in Germany, awaiting a decision on his extradition to Spain.

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