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Catalan politicians in Spanish court in secession probe

February 19, 2018

Catalan separatist politician and left-republican ERC party's Marta Rovira arrives at the Supreme court for questioning in Madrid, Spain, Monday, Feb. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul White)

MADRID (AP) — A Spain Supreme Court judge set bail Monday for a prominent Catalan politician who faced possible jailing during the ongoing investigation of people involved in the Catalonia region’s push for independence last year.

Left republican ERC party Secretary General Marta Rovira was questioned by an investigating magistrate for her role in the October defiance that triggered Spain’s severest political crisis in decades. Her bail was set at 60,000 euros ($74,600.)

Fellow politician Marta Pascal, the leader of the conservative PDeCAT party, was also questioned on Monday.

Judicial police have identified Rovira and Pascal as key players in the staging of a banned independence referendum and the declaration of secession Catalan lawmakers made based on its results.

Both told the judge Monday that the Oct. 27 independence had symbolic value, but no legal effect, according to witnesses of Monday’s court proceedings.

More than two dozen people, including politicians, elected lawmakers, and the regional police chief, are also under investigation for possible rebellion, sedition or misuse of public funds.

In Spain, a judge can keep suspects in custody before deciding if they should be formally charged at the end of an investigation.

Four suspects, including former regional Vice President Oriol Junqueras, remain in custody. Five former Catalan Cabinet members, headed by ex-regional President Carles Puigdemont, evaded court summons by moving to Belgium.

Puigdemont’s predecessor, Artur Mas, is due to appear in court Tuesday, and the leader of anti-establishment party Popular Unity Candidacy, Anna Gabriel, is scheduled to appear on Wednesday.

Gabriel’s party, known by its Spanish acronym CUP, said Gabriel has traveled to Geneva, Switzerland to prepare her legal defense, raising doubts she would comply with the court summons.

In a statement over the weekend, CUP said that the “exemplifying character” of the provisional jailing and hefty bails seen so far in the case is “far from the impartiality that judicial authorities should guarantee.”

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dismissed the regional government in Catalonia over the secession push. The central government remains in charge of the region’s daily affairs.

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