Spain judge jails Catalan ministers, mulls leader's arrest

2017-11-02 22:57
Protesters wave a Catalan pro-independence 'Estelada' flag during a demonstration outside the Spanish national police headquarters in Barcelona on October 2, 2017 to protest against the action of the national police during a banned independence referendum a day ago. (AFP)

Protesters wave a Catalan pro-independence 'Estelada' flag during a demonstration outside the Spanish national police headquarters in Barcelona on October 2, 2017 to protest against the action of the national police during a banned independence referendum a day ago. (AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Madrid — A Spanish prosecutor asked a judge on Thursday to issue an international arrest warrant for the former president of Catalonia and four of his ministers after they failed to appear in a Madrid court for questioning about their efforts to break the region away from Spain.

Meanwhile, the same judge, Investigative Magistrate Carmen Lamela, sent eight former Catalan Cabinet members to jail without bail and ordered another to be held pending a €50 000 ($58 300) bail payment.

The ruling was made at the request of prosecutors after the nine were questioned at the National Court in Madrid.

Charges of rebellion

Also on Thursday, six Catalan lawmakers appeared for a parallel session in the Spain Supreme Court. They were given a week to prepare their defenses and instructed to return for questioning on November 9.

In all, 20 regional politicians are being investigated on possible charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement for a declaration of secession the Parliament of Catalonia made on October 27. The crimes are punishable by up to 30 years in prison under Spanish law.

Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and his 13-member Cabinet were among those summoned to Spain's National Court for questioning. Puigdemont surfaced in Belgium on Tuesday with some of his ex-ministers, saying they were seeking "freedom and safety" there.

He and four of the officials remained in Brussels on Thursday.

Catalan leader says he is seeking safety outside Spain

Catalonia's ousted regional president said on Tuesday he travelled to Brussels to seek "freedom and safety" after Spain blocked his bid for Catalan independence and sought to bring charges against him that could put him in prison for decades.

Puigdemont's No. 2, former Vice President Oriol Junqueras, was the first to arrive Thursday at the National Court. He went in accompanied by lawyers, passing by dozens of journalists, and declined to answer questions.

The proceedings started with an appearance by the regional government's former spokesperson, Jordi Turull. He was followed by Josep Rull, who handled the region's territorial affairs.

Triggering constitutional powers

Spain took the unprecedented step of triggering constitutional powers allowing it to take over running Catalonia following the region's declaration of independence. Madrid dismissed the Catalan Cabinet, dissolved the regional parliament and called a new regional election for December 21.

Javier Melero, a lawyer representing some of the separatist lawmakers investigated in the Supreme Court, criticised Puigdemont and the four ministers who skipped court. He said their actions would be damaging for his clients, three lawmakers who are members of Puigdemont's PDeCAT party.

"Not being at the service of the judiciary when you are summoned is always damaging for the rest of those being investigated," Melero said.

About two dozen politicians and elected officials from Catalan separatist parties gathered at the gates of the Supreme Court in a show of support for the lawmakers under investigation.

A fair trial

"If the question is if in Spain you can trust the judicial system, my answer is no," said Artur Mas, a former president of the Catalan government. "From the personal point of view and also for my personal experience, I don't think that there are all the guarantees to have a fair trial."

Mas was banned by a Barcelona court from holding public office for two years after he ignored a Constitutional Court ruling and went ahead with a mock vote on Catalonia's independence in 2014.

Assumpcio Lailla, a former lawmaker with Catalonia's Democrats party, said she travelled to Madrid both to back the subjects of the rebellion probe and to oppose the criminal probe.

"This is an unjust situation in which they are being investigated for facilitating democracy," she said. "I don't understand how Europe can look away from democracy."

Across the street, half a dozen protesters with Spanish flags were stopped by police. They shouted at the Catalan politicians, "cowards" and "to jail, to jail".

A severe and prolonged crisis

In Barcelona, the Catalan regional capital, thousands of people rallied outside the regional presidential palace in Sant Jaume Square to show their support for the pro-secession politicians, clapping and chanting slogans in favour of independence.

The protracted political crisis over Catalonia, Spain's worst in decades, could have an impact on the country's economic growth, Spain's central bank warned in a report published on Thursday.

The Bank of Spain had assessed the potential consequences of two possible scenarios: one is a temporary period of uncertainty in the fourth quarter of 2017 which could shave 0.3 percentage points off forecast growth through the end of 2019.

The other scenario was a "severe and prolonged" crisis, which would bring an accumulated decrease of 2.5 percentage points in Spain's gross domestic product between the end of 2017 and 2019.

That, it said, could spell a recession for the Catalan economy.

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter

News24 (@News24) | Twitter

The latest Tweets from News24 (@News24). News24 is Southern Africa and Africa's premier online news resource reaching over 2.3 million local users each month.

Read more on:    spain  |  politics

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.