Catalan MPS in court after allowing vote on independence
● Six investigated on possible charges of rebellion and embezzlement
Six Catalan MPS testified before a Spanish judge yesterday over the central government’s claims that they ignored Constitutional Court orders by allowing an independence vote in the regional Parliament of Catalonia.
The Catalan parliament’s speaker, Carme Forcadell, was the first to be questioned by Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena and two prosecutors. She and five other members of the parliament’s governing body are being investigated on possible charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement.
Under Spanish law, the crimes are punishable by up to 30 years of imprisonment.
Prosecutors asked the judge to jail Ms Forcadell and three of the lawmakers without bail, to set bail of 50,000 euros for another and to release the sixth while the investigation continues.
The 27 October vote in the Catalan Parliament over declaring Catalonia’s independence from Spain was boycotted by most opposition MPS. It passed 70-10 in the 135seat legislative body.
Spain’s central authorities immediately seized control of the wealthy northeastern region, the first time in the four decades since General Francisco Franco’s dictatorship ended that Madrid removed powers from any of the country’s 17 regions.
Spain dismissed the regional government, dissolved the parliament and called a new regional election for 21 December.
Ms Forcadell, the parliament speaker, told prosecutors that the independence vote was merely “declarative and symbolic”.
Catalonia’s deposed regional president, Carles Puigdemont, and four of his former Cabinet members fled to Brussels, where they are fighting Spanish arrest and extradition orders.
In a letter posted on social media yesterday, the five called on voters to support pro-secession parties in Catalonia’s forthcoming regional election
“It’s time to drive away from the (Catalan) institutions those who want to own them with a coup d’etat,” Mr Puigdemont tweeted, referring to Spain’s decision to assume control of the region.
Mr Puigdemont, who is likely to run as the regional presidential candidate for his center-right PDECAT party, says he went to Belgium to rally Eurounited pean support for the Catalan cause and that he is not trying to evade justice.
Although no country has publicly sided so far with the Catalan officials removed from office, their presence in the Belgian capital has sown divisions with fellow politicians. In yesterday’s letter, the ousted Catalan Cabinet criticised the European Union for turning a blind eye to Catalonia’s plight.
“The time that we spend behind Spanish bars or in exile won’t be in vain if we remain in the defence of Catalonia and in denouncing the democratic decadence of Spain,” the letter said.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said his government’s policy on Catalonia has “100 per cent backing” from other EU countries.
Mr Rajoy said during a visit to the city of Salamanca, about 135 miles northwest of Madrid, that he hoped voters “meet their obligations as Spaniards and Europeans” in next month’s regional election. Mr Rajoy, who believes a majority of Catalans do not want to break away from Spain, urged a large turnout.
European Commission President Jean-claude Juncker, who has given Mr Rajoy his public support, said nationalist urges are “a poison” that harm the European Union’s efforts to speak with one voice on the world stage.
In what appeared to be an indirect rebuke of the secession push promoted by some Catalan leaders, Mr Juncker said during the trip to Salamanca that nobody has the right to undo the EU’S model of coexistence.
0 Catalan parliament’s former speaker Carme Forcadell arrives at the Supreme Court in Madrid yesterday where she was first to be questioned
0 Right-wing protesters hold flags saying ‘Long live a united Spain’