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5TH LEAD Spanish court orders two Catalan independence leaders jailed By Alvise Armellini, dpa

Europe
16.10.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Madrid (dpa) - A judge on the Spanish National High Court ruled Monday that two leading figures in Catalonia‘s independence movement be sent to pretrial detention without bail on charges of sedition and agitating for the region‘s secession.

Jordi Sanchez, head of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) party, and Jordi Cuixat, president of civil society organization Omnium Cultural, were deemed to have organized and mobilized large-scale demonstrations in defiance of Spanish authorities in the lead-up to Catalonia‘s disputed referendum on independence held on October 1, as well as in the weeks since.

Judge Carmen Lamela‘s judgement found that the men had utilized websites and social media to organize demonstrations as part of a "complex strategy" to push toward Catalan independence.

Sanchez and Cuixart‘s "ability to convene" was deemed instrumental in the continued, organized civil disobedience in Catalonia that has been central in pushing Spain into its current political crisis.

The judge also deemed that, given the two men‘s membership in pro-independence groups and ongoing role in agitating for independence, there was a high risk of reoffending. As such, and due to Lamela‘s suspicions that the defendants would attempt to destroy evidence, the two were ordered to pretrial detention.

Omnium Cultural‘s Twitter feed posted a picture of the men under a caption reading: "FREEDOM we want you home."

The tweet reads: "The deprivation of liberty for the presidents of Omnium and [ANC] is intolerable in a democratic society. The mobilization continues, they cannot imprison an entire people.

Spanish prosecutors investigating the head of the Catalan police, Josep Lluis Trapero, for sedition, called for his arrest as a precautionary measure, but a judge in Madrid turned down the request.

According to the Europa Press news agency, Trapero was, however, told not to leave the country, asked to report to a judge every fortnight, and had his passport confiscated.

Trapero earned international fame in August, as the public face of Catalan police, or Mossos d‘Esquadra, in the wake of the Barcelona and Cambrils terror attacks.

He was interrogated in connection with September 20-21 street protests in Barcelona, along with one of his deputies and the leaders of two pro-independence associations.

Monday‘s court decisions are likely to further exacerbate the tensions surrounding Catalonia‘s next steps regarding its push for independence.

Earlier on Monday, Catalan regional leader Carles Puigdemont dodged a 10 am (0800 GMT) ultimatum from the Spanish central government to clarify if his region had declared independence.

On October 10, Puigdemont announced in Catalonia‘s parliament that the region had won the right to independence, but would suspend a formal declaration in order to seek dialogue with Madrid.

"The [Spanish] government regrets that [Puigdemont] has decided not to answer" the question, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said in Madrid. "It was not difficult to say ‘yes‘ or ‘no.‘"

Puigdemont, in a letter to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, earlier proposed a two-month negotiation period on Catalonia‘s independence ambitions, to be mediated by "international, Spanish and Catalan" actors.

The Catalan leader now has until Thursday, also at 10 am, to retract his actions and avoid the application of Article 155 of the constitution, Santamaria said. "It is not difficult to return to reason in these [next] three days," she said.

Santamaria refused to be drawn into discussions about the implications of Article 155, which has never been used, but insisted that the issue at stake was not "suspending Catalonia‘s self-government," but restoring constitutional order in the region.

Article 155 could allow Madrid to take control of Catalan police, dissolve the regional parliament and call new elections.

But, according to TV3, Catalonia‘s regional public broadcaster, Puigdemont will continue to sidestep Rajoy‘s ultimatums, prolonging the game of chicken between the north-eastern region and the Spanish government.

Catalonia, a proud and wealthy region with its own language and culture, is at the centre of Spain‘s biggest political crisis since a failed coup d‘etat in 1981. Catalans are themselves deeply divided on the issue of independence.

Catalan authorities organized an October 1 referendum in which, according to their own unverified count, 90 per cent of about 2.3 million voters backed secession. Turnout was only 43 per cent, in large part because pro-union Catalans boycotted the poll.

The vote took place despite being prohibited by the Spanish Constitutional Court. Rajoy‘s government sent in federal police to disrupt voting on the day of the referendum, leading to hundreds of injuries and widespread public outcry.

 

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