Spanish prosecutors go after Catalonia’s axed leaders Catalonia’s Puigdemont in Brussels
Spanish prosecutors on Monday demanded that Catalonia’s dismissed leaders be charged with rebellion after the regional parliament declared independence last week and the central government in Madrid moved to take control of the region.
Upping the ante in the EU country’s biggest crisis in decades, Spain’s chief prosecutor said he was seeking charges including rebellion and sedition against the Catalan leaders, sacked by Madrid on Friday.
Jose Manuel Maza said the officials “caused an institutional crisis that led to the unilateral declaration of independence (by the Catalan parliament) carried out on October 27 with total contempt for our Constitution”.
Meanwhile, there was so far no sign of Catalonia’s dismissed regional president Carles Puigdemont. A Spanish government source told AFP that the 54-year-old was in Brussels.
Rebellion is punishable by up to 30 years in prison. A court now has to decide whether to accept the case against the leaders and bring charges.
On Sunday Belgium’s immigration minister suggested Puigdemont could receive asylum in Belgium on the grounds that he might not get a fair trial in Spain. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel later insisted that was “not on the agenda.”
Puigdemont on Saturday urged “democratic opposition” to Madrid’s effort to take control of his region.
Clear your desks
Puigdemont maintains that the result of an independence referendum on October 1 – outlawed by Spain’s top court – gave the wealthy northeastern region a mandate to declare it was seceding from Spain.
All eyes on Monday were on the regional government building in Barcelona – where the Spanish flag was flying – to see whether Puigdemont or members of his former administration would appear.
Catalan police, now under orders from Madrid, have been told they can allow the dismissed leaders to enter the government headquarters in Barcelona, but only to clear their desks.
One member of the dismissed government, Josep Rull, tweeted a photo of himself “at the office” doing his job as a regional minister. Press reports said he left again shortly afterwards. Late on Friday the Spanish Senate gave Madrid the power to impose direct rule on Catalonia under Article 155 of the Constitution, the first time this so-called “nuclear option” has been applied.
That followed the unilateral declaration of independence by Catalonia’s parliament the same day. Madrid took control of key powers and fresh Catalan elections were called for December 21.
A spokesman for Puigdemont’s party PDECAT said Monday that it would take part in the election. There had been speculation that it might boycott the vote.