Fired Catalan leaders now jailed by court

Madrid, Thursday

Eight sacked Catalan ministers have been remanded in custody by a Spanish high court judge over the region’s push for independence. Prosecutors had asked the judge to detain eight of the nine former government members who turned up for questioning in Madrid. They are accused of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.

The state prosecutor has requested a European arrest warrant for ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont. The request also covers four other dismissed Catalan ministers who did not show up.

Spain has been gripped by a constitutional crisis since the referendum was held on 1 October in defiance of a constitutional court ruling that had declared it illegal. Last week, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy imposed direct rule on Catalonia, dissolving the regional parliament and calling local elections for 21 December.

This came after Catalan lawmakers voted to declare the independence of the affluent north-eastern region. The Catalan government said that of the 43 per cent of potential voters who took part in the referendum, 90 per cent were in favour of independence.

Those detained include Deputy Vice President Oriol Junqueras, Interior Minister Joaquim Forn, Foreign Affairs Minister Raül Romeva, and Justice Minister Carles Mundó. Former Business Minister Santi Vila was granted bail at the request of prosecutors. He resigned before the Catalan parliament voted for independence on Friday.

Catalonia is an autonomous region in north-east Spain with a distinct history dating back almost 1,000 years. The wealthy region has about 7.5 million people, with their own language, parliament, flag and anthem.

Catalonia also has its own police force and controls some of its public services. For many years Catalan nationalists have complained that their region sends too much money to poorer parts of Spain.

Their budget and taxes are controlled by Madrid. However, following the push for breakaway, the Spanish government in turn fired the Catalan leaders, dissolved parliament and called regional elections for 21 December. Sacked Catalan President Carles Puigdemont remains defiant and has urged civil servants to disobey Madrid.

Spain’s state prosecutor has requested a European arrest warrant for ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont. Puigdemont’s lawyer said the climate was “not good” for him to appear.

Meanwhile, five other senior members of the Catalan parliament, as well as speaker Carme Forcadell, are facing the same charges but, because of their parliamentary immunity, their cases are being handled by the Supreme Court. Their hearings have been postponed until 9 November. -BBC

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