Spanish prosecutors seek jail terms for eight former Catalan leaders

November 2, 2017 10:33 pm
Members of the deposed Catalan regional government (L-R) Joaquim Forn, Raul Romeva, Dolors Bassa, Jordi Turull, Carles Mundo and Josep Rull arrive at the National Court in Madrid on November 2, 2017 to be questioned over their efforts to spearhead ’s independence drive. (Photo by AFP)
Former leaders of Catalonia’s now-defunct government face jail terms as the Spanish government seeks to assert its rule following a controversial declaration of independence in the northeastern region.
Prosecutors asked ’s National Court on Thursday that eight former members of Catalonia’s government, which is now dismantled and has its leader in a self-imposed exile, be imprisoned until more investigation is conducted in relation to an independence drive in Catalonia.
The eight former officials appeared in the Madrid court on Thursday, two days after they were summoned by Spain’s Supreme Court.
The eight had been summoned along deposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and five other ministers over charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement. Puigdemont, who is now in Belgium and has demanded special legal guarantees to return home, did not attend the hearing alongside four of his ministers.
Madrid has also summoned other former officials of Catalonia, including influential figures in the region’s parliament, over their contribution to the independence move.
Prosecutors said the court would free the ninth minister on Thursday if he could pay a bail of around 50,000 euros. The minister resigned before the Catalan parliament voted for independence.
Police forces stand guard as a small number of protesters gather outside the National Court in Madrid on November 2, 2017 as deposed Catalan officials arrive to be questioned over their efforts to spearhead Catalonia’s independence drive. (Photo by AFP)
Spanish newspaper, La Vanguardia, reported later on Thursday that a Spanish judge had issued a European arrest warrant for Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, and four members of his sacked cabinet, who are now in Belgium, after they failed to appear at a High Court hearing. However, Reuters reported that a spokeswoman for the High Court could not confirm the warrant had been issued.
The judge in the National Court has yet to decide on the jail requests that also would affect former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras. Spanish law allows jail terms of up to 30 years if the former officials are convicted of the charges filed against them.
The political stand-off over Catalonia, the gravest to hit Spain since the return of democracy to the country in the late 1970s, was triggered by a referendum of independence in the region on October 1. Nearly half of Catalonia’s eligible voters turned up in the vote which Spain had called illegal. Catalonia’s government then built on the overwhelming yes vote and declared independence on October 27. That prompted Madrid to sack Puigdemont and his deputies and take over the control of the wealthy and economically-prosperous region.
Thousands staged a protest outside the presidential palace in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, on Thursday to show their support for the former leaders of the region and condemn their prosecution by Madrid.
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