Top Spain court upholds disqualification of Catalan president

MADRID (AFP) : Spain’s top court on Monday upheld a court ruling disqualifying Catalan separatist president Quim Torra from office for disobedience, triggering immediate calls for protest in the wealthy northeastern region.

The ruling by Spain’s Supreme Court means Torra will have to stand down, unleashing a fresh political crisis as Catalonia’s regional government struggles to contain a surge in coronavirus infections in a badly-hit area of Spain.

It was not immediately clear how quickly the disqualification would take effect, with the matter to be decided by Catalonia’s high court, which convicted him in December of using Catalan separatist symbols on public buildings in the run-up to the national election of April 2019.

“He repeatedly and stubbornly disobeyed the orders of the Central Electoral Board to remove certain symbols from public buildings belonging to the Generalitat (regional government) during the electoral process,” the Supreme Court judges found in a unanimous ruling, throwing out Torra’s appeal.

The sentence disqualifies Torra from holding elected office for 18 months but he had been allowed to remain in power during the appeal process.

The regional parliament has already said it would disregard any such decision disqualifying Torra from office, and the Catalan president himself could also defy the ruling.

Monday’s ruling is likely to exacerbate a bitter dispute within the region’s deeply-divided separatist movement and potentially lead to early regional elections.