Former Catalan president arrested
Carles Puigdemont, the ex-Catalan regional president who has been at large since October, was detained in Germany on Sunday as a result of a European arrest order
ANOTHER turbulent week in Cataluña’s politics has ended with the arrest of former leader Carles Puigdemont in Germany.
Earlier, a failed attempt to elect a new president of the region’s parliament last Thursday was followed by the arrests of five former Catalan politicians, while a sixth fled to Switzerland.
Sr Puigdemont was attending a political conference in Finland on Friday when a judge in Madrid reactivated European arrest warrants for him and five other Catalan politicians who have been in self-imposed exile.
The former regional president was stopped after his car crossed the border into north Germany on his way back to Belgium, to where he fled following the illegal October referendum on independence. He has been remanded in custody and German authorities have 60 days to decide whether to accede to Spain’s extradition request.
He faces charges of sedition and rebellion in Spain and his detention led to demonstrations of support for him on the streets of Barcelona and other Catalan cities later on Sunday. Nine people were reported detained and 98 injured, including 13 police officers.
On Tuesday, radical prosegregation activist blocked the main roads into Cataluña from the south (the AP-7 and N-340 from Valencia), to the north (the A-7 at Figueres junction on the border with France) and towards the west (the A-2 towards Zaragoza in Lérida province).
The road blocks caused huge tail-backs and led to confrontations with motorists - specially lorry drivers. Similar actions took part along Barcelona's main Avenida Diagonal.
Later in the day police were order to remove the blocks and the human chains that had been formed - again leading to confrontations and even attack from the protestors.
The clashes followed protests on Friday after a Supreme Court judge in Madrid ordered five more Catalan leaders to be detained without bail, pending possible trial for rebellion, embezzlement and disobedience following the October referendum, offences which could result in 30 year prison terms.
News of the arrests gave fuel to previously-organised protests in Barcelona and elsewhere later that day. Clashes with police wielding riot batons resulted in at least 20 arrests.
Those jailed include former speaker of the Catalan parliament Carme Forcadell and three former ministers, Josep Rull, Raul Romeva and Dolors Bass, plus former Catalan gov- ernment spokesman Jordi Turull who is the latest candidate to have been nominated as Cataluña’s new president.
All have previously been held in detention and their return to prison follows Judge Pablo Llarena’s decision that all five are flight risks. A sixth arrest warrant for Marta Rovira was issued but she failed to appear in court, with media reports that she had fled into exile in Switzerland.
The court also ordered 14 members of the previous Catalan administration to pay back €2.1 million of public money which is alleged to have been spent to stage the referendum and cover judicial costs.
On Saturday, a second attempt to have Jordi Turull voted in as Cataluña’s new president was cancelled following his arrest. A first attempt earlier in the week failed after he was unable to gain an absolute majority of the votes cast by MPs after four members of the extreme left CUP abstained. A second vote was then scheduled for Saturday at which a simple majority would have seen Turull installed.
However, Saturday morning’s session of the Catalan parliament went ahead without him, but with yellow ribbons displayed on the seats of those MPs who are either in prison or exiled abroad. Speaker Roger Torrent, who spoke of the “repression” of the Spanish state, gave each party spokesman 15 minutes to comment on the current situation, but the Partido Popular, who were opposed to the move, chose to walk out before the statements began.
Activists blocking access to the A-2 highway in Lérida