Spanish court refuses to release nominated Catalan leader from jail

Spain’s Supreme Court is refusing to let Jordi Sanchez, the man nominated to lead Catalonia’s regional government, from jail to attend a confidence debate.

Catalan presidential nominee Jordi Sanchez speaks at an event supporting Catalan independence in Barcelona, Spain. File photo by Susanna Saez/EPA-EFE
Catalan presidential nominee Jordi Sanchez speaks at an event supporting Catalan independence in Barcelona, Spain. File photo by Susanna Saez/EPA-EFE

Judge Pablo Llarena said there was a risk of Sanchez reoffending if he were to be freed and allowed to speak in Catalan Parliament on Monday.

The judge said Sanchez “revalidated his commitment to offend, by becoming part of an electoral list that proclaims precisely that it wants to continue exercising the type of activity that is being tried,” and had shown an “obstinate determination” that led him not to stop “faced with the risk a violent social outbreak might occur.”

Sanchez, 53, asked to be released to attend Monday’s investiture ceremony after he was nominated to lead the Catalan government. He was jailed on sedition charges following last year’s Catalonia’s referendum independence vote — which was deemed illegal by Madrid officials.

Government spokesman Iñigo Méndez de Vigo said he “respected” the judge’s orders to keep Sanchez in jail.

“We believe a person in jail on remand is not in a situation to act as First Minister of Catalonia and they have to search for and find a person who can, always within the law,” de Vigo said.

Sanchez was tapped to succeed ousted leader Carles Puigdemont last week. Puigdemont has backed Sanchez, who is currently the only candidate in the running.

Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium after the referendum vote to avoid detention, has not returned to Spain since prosecutors filed charges against him and other pro-independence leaders.

Twenty-eight pro-independence Catalan politicians are under investigation by the Supreme Court for their role in the referendum vote. Along with Sanchez, former Vice President Oriol Junqueras, former interior minister Joaquim Forn and separatist leader Jordi Cuixart remain in jail.

The Spanish government dissolved the Catalan parliament after the referendum and called for snap elections.

By Sara Shayanian