Jailed Sànchez gets second bid for Catalan presidency after UN rights boost

Jordi Sànchez is currently awaiting trial on charges of rebellion. (Reuters pic)

MADRID: Catalonia’s parliament made a second attempt on Monday to put forward as the region’s new leader a pro-independence politician awaiting trial on charges of rebellion after a UN rights group said he should be allowed to run for office.

Lawmakers first selected Jordi Sànchez in March, but that bid was dropped as he was unable to attend the investiture ceremony because the Spanish government jailed him for helping orchestrate pro-independence protests last year.

The investiture that parliament’s speaker announced for Friday, but which Spain’s Supreme Court seems likely to block, would mark Catalonia’s fourth attempt to choose a president since a loose alliance of secessionist groups won an election there in December.

Spain’s central authorities called that vote having taken charge of the northeastern autonomous community in October, when it declared independence in an act that the courts said was illegal and that landed several members of the regional cabinet and civic leaders behind bars.

As well as Sànchez, Catalan lawmakers have since the ballot put forward former leader Carles Puigdemont and his ally Jordi Turull as potential presidents.

Puigdemont, who fled Spain five months ago after his administration’s declaration of independence, withdrew his candidacy on March 1, while Turull fell short of majority support.

If a new leader is not named before the end of May, Catalonia will be forced to call another election.

Parliament speaker Roger Torrent said on Monday that Sànchez, the former head of pro-independence civic group the Catalan National Assembly, was being nominated for a second time, following the message from the United Nations Human Rights Committee in support of his political rights.

“If the Supreme Court does not comply with the (UN) resolution it will be irreparably damaging to the political rights of Jordi Sànchez and the Spanish state will not be meeting its international obligations,” Torrent said as he announced Friday’s investiture.

In letters last month to Spanish authorities and Sànchez’s lawyers, the UN committee requested the state take all steps to ensure he be allowed to exercise his right to stand for office while noting it had reached no decision “on the substance of the matter under consideration.”

The judge in the case against Sànchez appears unlikely to row back on a ban on him attending parliament, however, with Spain’s Supreme Court having ruled he could not leave jail for March’s investiture session.