Published: Sun, March 25, 2018
Global | By Enrique Rogers

Ex-Catalan leader, Puigdemont, 12 others charged with rebellion

Ex-Catalan leader, Puigdemont, 12 others charged with rebellion

A Spanish Supreme Court judge on Friday charged 13 Catalan separatist politicians, including fugitive former regional president Carles Puigdemont, with rebellion for their attempt to declare independence from Spain.

Of those, five were sent on Friday to pre-trial jail, among them Jordi Turull, a close ally of Puigdemont who was due to be put forward for a second vote on Saturday to become the next regional president. If found guilty, they face up to 30 years in prison.

Judge Llarena is reactivating an arrest warrant that he dropped previous year against Mr. Puigdemont and other former members of his cabinet, amid concerns that courts in Belgium, where he fled, would instead soften the charges against them.

Llarena said the five detainees posed a serious flight risk and could seek to push ahead with their plans for unilateral independence if allowed to remain at liberty.

The woman deputizing for the jailed Junqueras as leader of the pro-independence Catalan Republican Left (ERC) party, Marta Rovira, was also among those indicted, but failed to appear in court on Friday, saying in a letter that she too had made a decision to take "the path of exile".

Thousands of people took to the streets of Barcelona to mark their sign of protest after Spain's High Court jailed five Catalan State politicians who were involved in playing a major role in the region's declaration of Independence. "The [parliamentary] session has been canceled", speaker of the Catalan parliament Roger Torrent said at the session's opening.

The deputy leader of the leftwing separatist ERC party, whose chief is now in jail, is now in Switzerland, according to Spanish media.

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The decision sparked a wave of demonstrations in Barcelona and across Catalonia on Friday.

But one of them, Marta Rovira, ignored the summons and instead announced she was taking "the road to exile".Rovira is deputy leader of the leftwing separatist ERC party, whose chief is now in jail.

Rights groups have already criticised the extent of Madrid's crackdown - though the European Union, wary of any splintering of its member states, has firmly supported the Spanish government's response.

The separatist majority of Catalonia's parliament failed to elect a regional president during a vote held Thursday, starting a two-month countdown to would end with another election being called in the restive corner of Spain.

It later emerged that she had fled into exile and Spanish media reported that she was in Switzerland.

Turull could still be chosen in a second vote due to take place on Saturday when only a simple majority is needed, but it is unclear whether this will happen.

In an hour-long speech to fellow MPs outlining the policies he would pursue if elected, Mr Turull did not mention the words "independence" or "republic". If they can not agree to a government in two months, another regional election will be held. They include Oriol Junqueras, the former Catalan vice-president, and Jordi Snchez, who was nominated to lead the Catalan government but dropped the bid after the Spanish authorities refused to release him to attend an investiture ceremony.

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