Catalan parliament speaker appears in court on sedition charge

  09 November 2017    Read: 641
Catalan parliament speaker appears in court on sedition charge

The speaker of the Catalan parliament and five of its members appeared before Spain’s supreme court in Madrid on Thursday to answer charges of rebellion and sedition over their roles in staging a banned referendum on Catalonia’s independence last month.

The court will decide whether to remand Carme Forcadell and the five MPs in custody while the investigation continues or release them under certain conditions.

Eight former members of the Catalan government and the leaders of the two main grassroots pro-independence groups are already in custody awaiting trial on sedition charges for their parts in the 1 October referendum, which Spanish courts ruled illegal.

The region’s deposed president, Carles Puigdemont, and four of his former cabinet ministers went into self-imposed exile in Belgium last week after Madrid responded to Catalonia’s declaration of independence by firing his administration, dissolving the parliament and calling regional elections for December.

Spain’s high court issued an arrest warrant for for all five last week on sedition and rebellion charges.

Forcadell and the five MPs were summoned last week to the supreme court, which handles cases of people who enjoy parliamentary immunity, but it gave them more time to prepare their defences.

They are suspected of having followed a “concerted strategy to declare independence” before the official declaration of the Catalan parliament on 27 October, which Spain’s constitutional court annulled on Wednesday in the country’s most serious political crisis in 40 years of democracy.

Catalonia’s push for independence has divided Spain deeply, fuelling anti-Spanish sentiment in Catalonia and nationalist tendencies elsewhere.

Cracks, however, have appeared in the pro-independence coalition and within Puigdemont’s Democratic Catalan party (PdeCat party).

Catalan secessionist parties failed to agree on a united ticket to contest the December election on Tuesday, making it more difficult to rule the region after the vote and press ahead with their collective bid to split from Spain.

Protesters blocked main roads and railway tracks in Catalonia on Wednesday as part of a region-wide strike called by a pro-independence CSC union.

Spain’s two largest unions did not support the industrial action, but roads including Spain’s export route to France and the rest of Europewere cut in about 60 places causing widespread disruption.

More than 2,000 businesses have moved their headquarters out of Catalonia as the turmoil drags on.

Fresh elections will be held in Catalonia on 21 December, and Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, called on Wednesday for “massive participation” in the vote.

Although the separatists won a majority of seats in 2015, they captured less than half of the votes cast, and polls show Catalans remain split over independence.

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