Spain's National Court jails former Catalan ministers as crackdown continues

Violet Powell
November 3, 2017

In Madrid, 20 secessionist leaders had been summoned by two separate courts to testify over their role in holding a banned October 1 referendum on secession and later proclaiming independence from Spain.

What is clear is that if Spain issues a European arrest warrant for him, Puigdemont would have to be quickly brought before a Belgian judge.

Conspicuously absent though was the region's deposed leader Carles Puigdemont and four of his former ministers, who travelled to Belgium after the central government imposed direct rule on Catalonia on Friday as the regional parliament declared independence.

Those 13 other officials were also scheduled to appear in court Thursday - nine did.

Mr Puigdemont's lawyer in Belgium said his client would stay away from Spain while the political climate was "not good"; but he would cooperate with the courts.

"The fury with which the Spanish government has attacked a lovely European nation is outrageous and is threatening us all", Mr Puigdemont said, adding that Catalonia's independence is "no longer an internal affair" of Spain. On Tuesday, the Spanish government said Catalonia will have a regional election in December.

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The request also covers four other dismissed Catalan ministers who did not show up.

The crimes being probed are punishable with up to 30 years in prison under Spanish law.

But instead, magistrate Carmen Lamela chose to jail eight of the politicians, only setting bail for Santi Vila, who had opposed last week's unilateral declaration.

One challenge, Chome said, is to decide what type of offenses and charges will be listed in the warrant, as Belgium does not have the equivalent charges of sedition and rebellion that Puigdemont and his associates could face.

Ousted Catalan parliament speaker and prominent pro-independence activist Carme Forcadell has arrived at Spain's Supreme Court for questioning in a rebellion investigation.

The Supreme Court agreed on Thursday to give one more week to Forcadell and the Catalan lawmakers to prepare their defence and a new hearing will take place on November 9.

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