• Monday, Jan 17, 2022
  • Last Update : 03:32 am

In Belgium for 'safety', axed Catalan leader summoned to Spain court

  • Published at 09:58 am November 1st, 2017
In Belgium for 'safety', axed Catalan leader summoned to Spain court
Spain's top criminal court on Tuesday summoned Catalonia's axed separatist leader for questioning, hours after he appeared in Brussels insisting he remained the "legitimate president" of a region now under direct rule from Madrid. The National Audience in Madrid, which deals with major criminal cases, summoned Carles Puigdemont and 13 other former members of his administration, dismissed by Spain's central government last week, to appear Thursday and Friday. They are then set to be placed under formal investigation. On Monday, Spain's chief prosecutor said he was seeking charges of rebellion - punishable by up to 30 years behind bars - sedition and misuse of public funds. But the 54-year-old Puigdemont is in Brussels, where he surfaced after reportedly driving to Marseille in France and taking a plane to the Belgian capital. At a packed and chaotic news conference Tuesday, Puigdemont said he was in Brussels "for safety purposes and freedom" and to "explain the Catalan problem in the institutional heart of Europe." "We want to denounce the politicisation of the Spanish justice system, its lack of impartiality, its pursuing of ideas not crimes, and to explain to the world the Spanish state's serious democratic deficiencies," he said. He denied that he intended to claim asylum but said he and several other former ministers who travelled with him would return only if they have guarantees that legal proceedings would be impartial. But two former ministers flew back to Barcelona late on Tuesday where they were greeted by a small group of demonstrators who waved Spanish flags in their faces and shouted "traitors!" and "Viva Espana!" at them. If Puigdemont fails to appear in court as requested, Spanish prosecutors could order his arrest. His lawyer Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas complained in a Tweet that Puigdemont had not been "given time to prepare the defence." The National Audience also gave Puigdemont and his former ministers three days to pay a combined deposit against potential penalties of 6.2 million euros ($7.2 million).

Uncharted territory

Puigdemont's departure and the court's announcement are the latest twists in the saga over semi-autonomous Catalonia's drive for independence, which has sparked Spain's biggest crisis in decades. With its own language and distinct culture, Catalonia, which accounts for a fifth of Spain's economy and 16 percent of its population, is deeply divided over independence. On October 1, the region held an unregulated referendum - marked by a heavy-handed operation by Spanish police - in which a large majority voted in favour of seceding from Spain. But Spain's top court had ruled the plebiscite illegal, and turnout was just 43 percent. Puigdemont insists nonetheless the referendum gave the Catalan parliament a mandate to declare independence on Friday, a decision relayed on large screens to cheering crowds in the regional capital Barcelona. But the reaction from Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government was swift and emphatic. Invoking a never-used article of the constitution, Madrid dismissed Catalonia's leaders and imposed direct rule. On Tuesday Spain's top court ordered the suspension of the Catalan parliament's independence declaration. Spain's Civil Guard police force meanwhile searched the headquarters of Catalonia's regional police in a probe centred on the independence referendum, a spokesman said. Spain's Supreme Court also summoned the former speaker of the Catalan parliament to be put under formal investigation.

'Slow down'

There had been speculation that Catalan leaders and civil servants might seek to disrupt Madrid's imposition of direct rule but it passed off without major incident. "We haven't come across a single civil servant who isn't doing his or her duty," Enric Millo, a central government representative in Catalonia, said Tuesday. But it appears that the crisis has converted more Catalans into independence supporters. A regional government opinion poll carried out in October suggested more Catalans now favour independence than not. The survey found that 48.7 percent said they wanted a separate state against 43.6 percent who did not.
50
Facebook 50
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail