Saturday 21 April 2018

​Prosecutors seek arrest warrant for Puigdemont

Carme Forcadell, Speaker of Catalan parliament, leaving Spain’s Supreme Court. Photo: Reuters
Carme Forcadell, Speaker of Catalan parliament, leaving Spain’s Supreme Court. Photo: Reuters

James Badcock

Spain's state prosecutor yesterday asked a High Court judge to issue a European arrest warrant for ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont after he failed to appear at a court hearing earlier in the day.

Mr Puigdemont's lawyer in Belgium, where he has travelled with four members of his sacked cabinet, said the climate in Spain was "not good", and his client wanted to maintain some distance; but he would co-operate with the courts.

In the absence of Mr Puigdemont, nine members of the deposed former Catalan president's cabinet were questioned by an investigating judge at Madrid's high court yesterday morning, after Spain's public prosecution service accused Catalonia's entire government of crimes against the state in organising an illegal referendum and declaring independence.

Mr Puigdemont travelled to Brussels at the start of the week, and decided to snub the Spanish judiciary by not attending yesterday's hearing.

Accusing the former regional ministers of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds - crimes that together could lead to maximum jail sentences of 30 years under Spanish law - the prosecutor has asked the judge to remand the politicians in custody without bail, with the reported exception of Santi Vila, who could pay bail under the prosecution's request.

Investigating magistrate Carmen Lamela must decide whether to proceed with the criminal investigation, and which security measures would be appropriate in that case.

Mr Vila arrived separately from his former colleagues after announcing this week that he wishes to lead Mr Puigdemont's PDeCAT party into elections called on December 21, in Catalonia.

The one-time business department chief has said he wants to "bring moderation back" to the campaign for independence in Catalonia.

In Spain's supreme court, the six members of the speaker's committee of Catalonia's parliament, facing the same criminal accusations as the ousted government, were granted a week-long postponement of the preliminary hearing after their lawyers requested more time to prepare their defence.

On arrival in Madrid, the Catalan politicians were met by a mixture of support from well-wishers, and jeers and insults from pro-Spain protesters, some of whom performed Nazi salutes.

Joe Boeta, a left-wing activist from Madrid, who was standing outside the high court entrance to support the accused, was shocked that police allowed an impromptu demonstration by a small far-right element to take place, while most pedestrians were told to keep circulating.

Irish Independent

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