The Latest: Top Catalan lawmaker jailed, but gets bail set
MADRID (AP) — The Latest on the Spain-Catalonia political crisis (all times local):
A Spanish judge has agreed to jail Catalonia’s top lawmaker in the rebellion probe stemming from the regional parliament’s independence vote, setting her bail at 150,000 euros ($175,000) and ordering her passport confiscated.
Prosecutors had asked Supreme Court magistrate Pablo Llarena to jail Catalan Parliament Speaker Carme Forcadell and three other lawmakers without bail on Thursday.
Forcadell is the speaker of the regional parliament where, disregarding warnings from Spain’s Constitutional Court, separatist lawmakers passed a declaration to proclaim a new Catalan republic on Oct. 27.
Prosecutors are pursuing a criminal case against the speaker and five members of the parliament’s governing body.
The judge set a 25,000-euro ($29,000) bail to be paid in one week for four lawmakers if they want to avoid jail, and released from custody a sixth who had made the Oct. 27 vote possible but opposed the independence declaration.
During earlier questioning, Forcadell sought to avoid custody by saying that the independence declaration was “symbolic,” according to lawyers familiar with the proceedings.
A lawyer says Spanish prosecutors are asking a judge to jail Catalan Parliament Speaker Carme Forcadell and three other regional lawmakers without bail on provisional rebellion charges.
The four are among a group of six parliament members in Catalonia who were questioned on Thursday in an inquiry about the steps that led to a declaration of independence vote.
The lawyer familiar with the proceedings in Spain Supreme Court says prosecutors also requested bail to be set on another lawmaker and the release of a one who opposed Catalonia’s secession in the Oct. 27 vote.
The lawyer asked not to be named because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the proceedings in public.
Eight members of the now-dismissed Catalan Cabinet and two activists have already been jailed on similar provisional charges. The region’s ousted separatist leader, Carles Puigdemont, and four of his ministers are fighting extradition to Spain from Brussels.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says nationalist urges are “a poison” which harm the European Union’s efforts to speak with one voice on the world stage.
In what appeared to be indirect rebukes of an effort by some Catalan leaders to achieve their region’s independence from Spain, Juncker said during a trip to the Spanish city of Salamanca that nobody has the right to undo the EU’s model of coexistence.
Spain’s government dismissed Catalonia’s secession-minded Catalan government and dissolved the region’s parliament after bids to break away last month. Spain’s Constitution says the country is “indivisible,” and the national government deemed the secession attempts illegal.
In a speech in French upon receiving an honorary doctorate Thursday from Salamanca University, Juncker said, “yes to Europe, yes to its group of nations, yes to its regions, but no to breaking up along national and regional lines.”
Juncker noted that the EU is based on the rule of law, according to Spanish news agency Europa Press.
Lawyers familiar with Spain Supreme Court proceedings involving six Catalan lawmakers say regional Parliament Speaker Carme Forcadell has told prosecutors the governing body’s independence vote was “declarative and symbolic.”
The two lawyers said Forcadell’s testimony on Thursday was designed to minimize liability if she is charged for having disobeyed orders from Spain’s Constitutional Court.
The lawyers asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the Thursday court proceedings.
Forcadell and five other Parliament of Catalonia legislators are being questioned in an inquiry about the steps that led to the Oct. 27 declaration of independence vote. They face possible charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement.
A Supreme Court spokeswoman says four of the lawmakers have finished answering questions. The other two will be questioned later on Thursday.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says he hopes voters “meet their obligations as Spaniards and Europeans” when a regional election is held in Catalonia next month.
Rajoy says “a lot will be decided” by the ballot and urges a big turnout in the early vote, which was called after Spain’s central authorities removed the secession-minded Catalan government and dissolved the region’s parliament.
The Catalan government held an independence referendum last month which Spain’s Constitutional Court deemed illegal. Weeks later, the Catalan parliament unilaterally declared independence. Spain’s Constitution says the country is “indivisible.”
Rajoy said Thursday his government is upholding European Union values of respect for the law, rights and democracy. He believes most Catalans don’t want to break away from Spain.
Rajoy said during a visit to the Spanish city of Salamanca that his government’s policy on Catalonia has the “100 percent backing” of other EU countries.
The European Union has conceded that developments in Catalonia could have a negative impact on Spain’s economy.
In its half-yearly forecasts, the European Commission said the risk exists that “future developments could have an impact on economic growth” but that the size of any impact “cannot be anticipated at this stage.”
It also noted that the market reactions to the push for independence in Catalonia have been “contained.”
In Brussels, Pierre Moscovici, the European Commission’s top economy official, said: “We cannot speculate on any political development anywhere.”
The commission is predicting that the Spanish economy will grow by 3.1 percent this year, falling back to 2.5 percent and 2.1 percent over the coming two years, even without any impact from Catalonia.
The ousted Catalan officials fighting extradition to Spain from Belgium have issued a letter calling for support for pro-secession parties in upcoming regional elections.
Catalonia’s deposed president and four other ex-officials signed the letter, which he posted on Twitter.
Carles Puigdemont said “it’s time to drive away from (Catalan) institutions those who want to own them with a coup d’etat.”
He was referring to the unprecedented measures taken by Spain’s central authorities to crack down on the independence bid.
Spain removed Puigdemont’s Cabinet last month, and Spanish judges are investigating them for rebellion. Central authorities also dissolved the regional parliament and called an early election for Dec. 21 that is shaping into a close race between separatist and pro-union political forces.
Puigdemont is likely to run as the candidate for his center-right PDeCAT party.
Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell and five other lawmakers have arrived to testify before a Supreme Court judge in an inquiry about steps taken to declare independence from Spain.
The six members of the regional parliament’s governing body could face decades in prison if charged and then found guilty of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement.
Around 100 supporters, some who had traveled overnight from the northeastern Catalonia region, gathered outside of the Supreme Court building in central Madrid Thursday to show support for the lawmakers.
They braved the November cold and chanted “You are not alone” as the lawmakers and lawyers entered the court.
A handful of anti-independence protesters were kept at bay meters away by police agents. They were carrying Spanish flags and shouted “You don’t fool us, Catalonia is Spain.”
Six Catalan lawmakers are testifying Thursday before a Spanish judge over claims that they ignored Constitutional Court orders and allowed an independence vote in Catalonia’s regional parliament.
The parliament’s speaker, Carme Forcadell, and five other members of the parliament’s governing body face possible charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement, punishable by decades in jail.
A Supreme Court judge is set to decide after questioning them if any preventive measures — including possible jail — are to be applied while the investigation continues.
Central authorities took the unprecedented step of seizing control of the wealthy region shortly after the Oct. 27 independence declaration, the first time in four decades of democratic rule that one of Spain’s 17 regions has temporarily lost its self-government.
Spain removed the regional government, dissolved the parliament and called a new regional election for Dec. 21.