Thursday, February 2, 2012

Spanish Supreme Court rejects appeals written in Catalan

A simple question of procedure

The Spanish Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from Marc Belzunces written in Catalan. Mr.  Belzunces is now studying the possibility of an appeal to the Constitutional Court, considering this is a “case of linguistic discrimination against Catalan speakers in the Spanish courts”. This could be the first case ever of this kind that is brought up to the Constitutional Court.

Marc Belzunces refused to show up for voting-table duty during the Spanish election of 2008*, alleging, as a Catalan independentist, conscientious objection against Spain. From that moment on, the voting-table related court case against him has been “full of irregularities regarding the use of Catalan,” Mr. Belzunces denounces.

Concerning this, his lawyers observe that “the defendant wanted to exercise the right to use Catalan in all proceedings, but this right has been repeatedly ignored. In the past, the High Court of Catalonia has pronounced itself reminding all courts in Catalonia of the right for a defendant to have all proceedings in Catalan”.

Finally, on July 19th 2010, the Provincial Court of Barcelona ruled Marc Belzunces guilty of voting-duty offenses with a sentence of 14 days in jail and a fine of 3 months (708 €).

The accused filed an appeal before the Supreme Court, but the Court declared it null because it was written in Catalan. Belzunces filed a new appeal to the Supreme Court against this decision. The final resolution, which was known a few days ago, claims that an appeal written in Catalan has no legal validity.

The ruling by the Supreme Court recognizes that the appeal meets all the requirements except for the language one, and states that it should have been written in Spanish. The judges considered it a “simple question of procedure”.

In order to reject appeals written in Catalan, the Supreme Court uses a recent Constitutional Court ruling against the catalan constitution. This ruling states that, outside of their own autonomous region, other languages in Spain do not have an equal legal status to Spanish.

This final resolution means that the defendant is not entitled to a second chance in court, namely the revision of the court ruling, which is a “right recognized to all citizens.” This means that the sentence against Mr. Belzunces by the Provincial Court of Barcelona will have to be carried on.



*Translator's note: Voting table duty is a made-up, loose translation of "deure de mesa electoral", a civic duty comparable to jury duty in the US. Refusal to comply is punishable by Spanish law.

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