Former Catalan leader Artur Mas banned from public office over independence vote

Article published by Politico, 13th March 2017

Erstwhile head of the Spanish region banned for two years after being found guilty of an act of disobedience over informal referendum.

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Catalonia’s High Court sentenced the region’s former President Artur Mas to a two-year ban from public office Monday and fined him €36,500 for staging an illegal vote on independence from Spain in 2014.

The sentence also included Mas’ deputy Joana Ortega and his education minister Irene Rigau. They were barred from public office for 21 months and 18 months, respectively.

Artur Mas, who had faced a 10-year ban from public office, assumed full responsibility for instigating a non-binding referendum in November 2014 to demand the independence of the region, but denied having deliberately violated the law. “There was no intention of committing any crime or of disobeying anyone,” said Mas during the trial. “If it was so obvious that it was a crime, how could it be that the Constitutional Court did nothing to enforce its resolution?”
The informal vote was opposed by Mariano Rajoy’s government in Madrid and was held in defiance of Constitutional Court ruling five days ahead of the poll that the referendum was illegal. Around 2.3 million people in Catalonia cast a ballot in the plebiscite with 80.7 percent voting for independence.

The sentence is not final and Mas, Ortega and Rigau’s legal teams have already announced that they would appeal to the Supreme Court.

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