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

Spain detains Catalonia's eight former ministers

  • Published at 05:49 pm November 3rd, 2017
  • Last updated at 01:00 am November 4th, 2017
Spain detains Catalonia's eight former ministers
A large chunk of Catalonia's deposed government was behind bars early Friday after a Spanish judge ordered the detention of eight ministers pending probes into their role in the region's independence drive, prompting fresh protests. Carles Puigdemont, dismissed last week as Catalan president by the Spanish government and who has since holed up in Belgium, is likely to be hit with a European arrest warrant after failing to show at the court hearing in Madrid. Judge Carmen Lamela, who on Thursday had Puigdemont's deputy and seven other deposed regional ministers detained pending a potential trial for alleged sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds, will issue a warrant for Puigdemont "during the day Friday," a judicial source in Madrid told AFP. Puigdemont's Belgian lawyer Paul Bekaert had earlier told Flemish television channel VRT that his client told him that the warrant "has been issued against the president and four other ministers who are in Belgium." He said he expected that the Spanish judiciary would subsequently send an extradition request to Belgian federal prosecutors, adding that Puigdemont would appeal if a Belgian judge approved the request. With television channels showing images of police vans with flashing blue lights said to be taking the former ministers to different prisons, Catalans took to the streets in anger and disbelief. There were protests in front of the Catalan parliament in Barcelona, the regional capital, with police estimating a crowd of 20,000. Others gathered outside town halls across the region including 8,000 people in both Girona and Tarragona. Those in Barcelona held up their mobile phones like candles and waved separatist flags -- red and yellow stripes with a white star -- also holding black-and-yellow "libertad" ("freedom") signs. The crowds, who included elderly couples and young parents carrying toddlers, chanted "Free political prisoners" and "This isn't justice but dictatorship."

Demonstrators gather for a protest outside the Generalitat Palace in Barcelona on November 2, 2017 as members of the deposed Catalan government were being questioned in Madrid | AFP


"It makes you angry even when you don't vote for independence because every time a disproportionate measure is taken, it only fuels independence," said retired teacher Dolores, 66. Puigdemont called in a statement broadcast on Catalan TV from an undisclosed location for the release of the ministers and said that the situation "is no longer an internal Spanish affair". "The international community, and especially the European community, must realise the danger these attitudes represent," he said.

Flight risk

A total of 20 people including Puigdemont, Junqueras and the speaker of the Catalan regional parliament had been summoned for questioning on Thursday. A hearing of the speaker of Catalan's parliament and five others at the Supreme Court was adjourned until November 9 after their lawyers requested more time to prepare their defence. Puigdemont and four others with him in Belgium failed to show. In respect to his no-show at the hearing, Bekaert said his client "did not find a climate conducive to testifying and it would be better to put a bit of distance between it". In her ruling, judge Lamela said she had ordered preventive detention for those who remained because of a possible flight risk. "Let's remember that some of the defendants have already gone to other countries, dodging possible penal responsibilities," she wrote. A ninth former minister, who resigned last Friday, was also remanded in custody but will be set free if he pays bail of 50,000 euros ($58,000).

Independence drive

Catalan demands for independence date back centuries but have surged in recent years, in part due to a difficult economic situation. Puigdemont's government organised an independence referendum on October 1 despite a court ban. Spanish police tried and failed to stop it, in some cases firing rubber bullets at people defending polling stations. A declaration of independence by the Catalan parliament followed last Friday. But that same day, Rajoy dismissed the regional government, imposing direct rule on Catalonia and called regional elections for December 21.

'Failed state'

Marta Rovira, a lawyer and Catalan separatist lawmaker, briefly broke down in tears as she spoke to reporters in Madrid after the announcement of the detentions. "The Spanish state is a failed state, a state that has failed democratically," she said. "I'm convinced we won't surrender, we won't, we will fight until the end." But Catalans, fiercely proud of their language and culture, remain deeply divided about independence, polls indicate. The European Union has swung firmly behind Rajoy. Spain's central bank warned Thursday of a possible recession in Catalonia if the crisis continues. In addition, there are signs of growing divisions in the separatist camp, with many unhappy with Puigdemont, particularly now he is hundreds of miles away from the region he hopes to lead to independence.
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