Spanish court refuses to free 4 Catalan leaders as elections near

  05 December 2017    Read: 412
Spanish court refuses to free 4 Catalan leaders as elections near

Former Catalonian Vice President Oriol Junqueras, former cabinet member Joaquim Forn and two leaders of civic groups Asamblea Nacional Catalana (ANC) and Omnium Cultural, all charged with sedition, have been refused bail, Spain's Supreme Court said yesterday.

Six other former members of the Catalonia cabinet who are in custody ahead of an investigation into their part in what was deemed an illegal, unilateral declaration of independence by the regional government on Oct. 27, had bail set at 100,000 euros.

The Catalonian leaders' organization of an independence referendum on Oct. 1 and subsequent declaration of independence, both acts banned under Spain's constitution, have tipped the country into its worst political crisis in more than four decades. The central government sacked the previous regional government within hours of the declaration and called a regional election for Dec. 21.

The eight former members of the cabinet were detained on Nov. 2 and face potential charges of sedition, rebellion and misappropriation of funds. The have since called to be released to campaign for the election.

Spain's Supreme Court refused bail for Junqueras, Forn and leaders of Catalan civic groups ANC and Omnium Cultural, Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart. In a court statement, the judge ruled that while he considered there was no risk the defendants leaving the country, he did believe there was a risk of criminal reiteration.Campaigning for the election, with Junqueras at the head of the list for his Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) party, begins today, and polls have shown that support for independence is running in a dead heat with support for continued unity with Spain.

The decision came as sacked Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and four close separatist allies who are also running for re-election appeared in a Brussels court again for extradition hearings and a possible decision on whether they will be sent back to Spain.

A Belgian judge will decide on Dec. 14 whether to grant a European arrest warrant and send Puigdemont and four separatist ministers back to Spain on sedition charges, lawyers said yesterday, exactly one week before key regional elections in Catalonia in which they are all running for re-election.

Spain is seeking to have Puigdemont and four of his former ministers who also fled with him sent back to face charges over their role in the independence drive.

Catalonia's pro-independence parties were seen losing their parliamentary majority in the regional election on Dec. 21, an official poll showed yesterday, as Reuters reported.

Pro-independence party Junts per Catalunya was seen winning 25 to 26 seats, the ERC another 32 and the extreme-left Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) party nine seats, according to the poll carried out by the Sociological Research Centre (CIS).

That would give the pro-independence camp just 67 seats in the 135-seat regional parliament, stripping them of their previous slim majority.

The government's People's Party (PP) would win just seven seats while the Socialists would take 21 and the market-friendly Ciudadanos 31 to 32 seats, the poll showed. CatComu-Podem, the Catalan arm of the anti-austerity Podemos party, could win nine seats, according to the survey.

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