Companys had been elected a member of the autonomous Catalan Parliament in 1932. Two years later he became Catalan president. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) he sided with the Spanish republican camp against a right-wing uprising led by Franco. As Francoists gained the upper hand in the conflict, Companys saw himself forced into exile in 1939. Seeking shelter in Brittany, Companys was arrested by Gestapo policemen in 1940, who handed him over to Spanish authorities. Only two months later he was executed.
Catalan institutions are these days marking Companys's death amid demands to the Spanish authorities of sentence nullification. The last one to insist on those demands is the Barcelona city council, which two weeks ago passed a declaration calling the Spanish government to start procedures to nullify the trial against Companys. The text also calls Spain to "restore" the president's honour by acknowledging the wrongs down to him.
In 2009, the Catalan government had in turn called the State Attorney to lodge an appeal to the Supreme Court so that the death sentence was nullified. But one year later, the Spanish Parliament rejected the proposal. Spain's two largest parties -PP and PSOE- voted against a proposal introduced by Catalan pro-independence party ERC for a formal reparation of Companys's memory.
PSOE then argued that a Spanish act on historical memory already deemed the death sentence to be illegitimate and out of democratic Spanish law, and thus it was not necessary to pass an explicit declaration on Companys.
But ERC -the party which Companys belonged to- believes that this does not amount to an official, sincere act of reparation by the Spanish authorities. In 2013, the Catalan party lodged a complaint before an Argentinian court on the grounds that Spain had committed a crime against humanity by killing Companys.
Demands for sentence nullification also stem from the Catalan civil society. The Dignity Commission group is asking Spanish president Mariano Rajoy to issue a formal condemnation of Companys's death sentence.
The Dignity Commission has been for years calling the Spanish authorities to send back to Catalonia loads of documents confiscated by the Francoist dictatorship to Catalan political parties and associations.