Prosecutor seeks jail for Catalan former parliamentary speaker
Carme Forcadell tells court independence declaration was ‘symbolic’
Former Catalan regional parliament speaker Carme Forcadell, with other members of the Catalan parliament, was ordered to appear in court under alleged charges of rebellion and sedition. Photograph: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images
Spain’s state prosecutor on Thursday requested that the Supreme Court remand in custody four former members of Catalonia’s parliament who are being investigated for sedition and rebellion for their alleged role in their region’s recent independence drive.
Carme Forcadell, the former speaker of the Catalan parliament, and five other lawmakers who had allegedly overseen a unilateral declaration of independence on October 27th, all faced questioning in a preliminary hearing.
Afterwards, the prosecutor’s office called on the court to jail Ms Forcadell, Lluís Corominas, Lluís Guinó and Anna Simó, pending trial. It requested that bail be set for lawmaker Ramona Barrufet and that her colleague Joan Josep Nuet be free to go. The court was expected to make a decision late on Thursday.
The Spanish government responded to last month’s independence declaration by introducing direct rule, sacking Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and his entire cabinet, dissolving the regional parliament and calling an election for December 21st.
Last week, nine former members of the pro-independence Catalan government were jailed by the High Court pending trial in a similar investigation which also linked them to the staging of an independence referendum on October 1st. Only one of them, Santi Vila, was granted bail and released.
Court sources told Spanish media that, during their questioning, Ms Forcadell and her colleagues had accepted the imposition of direct rule and had presented the independence proclamation as “symbolic”, rather than legally binding.
Xavier García Albiol, leader of the governing Popular Party (PP) in Catalonia, welcomed the news.
“That Carme Forcadell publicly acknowledges that the Catalan independence declaration has no real value is good for democrats,” he posted on twitter.
Meanwhile, Mr Puigdemont, who has been in Belgium since October 30th, was defiant as he celebrated the anniversary of a non-binding independence referendum staged by the Catalan government three years ago, and that held last month.
“Between November 9th, 2014, and October 1st we advanced a great deal,” he tweeted. “The [Catalan] people have become empowered, free, their minds made up and fearless. We shall climb the final steps.”
Mr Puigdemont has said he does not plan to request asylum in Belgium but claims he would not receive a fair trial in Spain. A Belgian judge will make a ruling on Spain’s attempt to extradite him on November 17th, although the former Catalan president could appeal, extending the process.
On Wednesday, a strike across Catalonia to protest the judicial action against Catalan leaders brought many roads in the region to a standstill and disrupted rail links and some other public services. On Saturday, a large demonstration is planned in Barcelona to demand the release of the politicians and two civic pro-independence leaders, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sánchez.
The imprisoned politicians and civic leaders are expected to be a major issue in the upcoming election, for which pro-independence parties have not registered an electoral coalition as they did in 2015. However, they are still considering possible formulas, with Mr Puigdemont expected to run as a candidate if his legal status allows him to.