Catalan police chief in Madrid court in 'sedition' probe

  06 October 2017    Read: 442
Catalan police chief in Madrid court in 'sedition' probe

The Catalan chief of police, Josep Lluis Trapero, has appeared before a judge in Madrid on suspicion of sedition against the state.

His Mossos d'Esquadra force is accused of failing to protect Spanish national police from protesters ahead of the 1 October independence referendum.

The Catalan vote last Sunday was declared illegal under Spanish law.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont now plans to address the Catalan parliament on Tuesday - later than was expected.

Spain's Constitutional Court earlier suspended the parliament session that had been planned for Monday. There is speculation that the parliament will declare independence unilaterally, based on last Sunday's disputed vote.

"Parliament will discuss, parliament will meet," said Catalan foreign affairs chief Raül Romeva. "Every attempt the Spanish government has used to impede things to happen, they have been demonstrated completely not only useless but counter-productive," he told the BBC in English.

Watershed moment

The "sedition" hearing took place at the national criminal court in Madrid. The defendants are accused of failing to help Guardia Civil police tackle thousands of pro-independence protesters outside the Catalan Economy Department in Barcelona on 20 September.

Along with commander Trapero, another Catalan police officer and two leading independence activists are also being investigated in Madrid.

They all left the court after the morning hearing free, without facing any Spanish restrictions. It is not yet clear what they told the judge.

The Guardia Civil submitted an official accusation against the Mossos.

Leading newspaper El Pais says the allegation of sedition is extraordinary in post-Franco democratic Spain.

The crime of sedition has been in every Spanish penal code since 1822 and carries a potential prison term of up to 15 years. It amounts to rebellion against state decisions or national security forces.

As recently as August the Mossos was being widely praised for quickly tackling the Islamist cell that carried out the Barcelona terror attack in that month.

The Catalan regional government says it might unilaterally declare independence within days.

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will chair a cabinet meeting to discuss the next moves in the confrontation with Catalonia.

Organisers of Sunday's vote put the turnout at 42%, with 2.2 million people taking part. They say 90% voted for independence, but have not published final results. There have been several claims of irregularities.

There was violence at polling stations as police, trying to enforce a Spanish court ban on the vote, attempted to seize ballot boxes and disperse voters.

More about: #Catalonia