Tuesday 23 January 2018

Spain prepares for purge of Catalonia police force rebels

Women hold Spanish and Catalan flags during a demonstration against Catalonia’s independence in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Photo: Getty Images
Women hold Spanish and Catalan flags during a demonstration against Catalonia’s independence in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Photo: Getty Images

James Badcock

Spain’s interior ministry is finalising plans to purge Catalonia’s police force of pro-independence officers who could obstruct the roll-out of direct rule over the rebellious region by the Spanish government from Friday.

Besides a replacement for Major Josep Lluis Trapero, the Mossos d’Esquadra police chief, Spain’s authorities are also preparing to take over control of Mossos units seen as likely to remain loyal to the Catalan authorities, the newspaper ‘El Pais’ reported.

Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, the deputy prime minister, said the first move under special powers conferred on the government by triggering Article 155 of the constitution would see “the political control of the Mossos taken over by the interior ministry”.

Major Trapero is being investigated for possible sedition by allegedly refusing to carry out orders from Spain’s courts in an effort to prevent the unlawful referendum on independence from going ahead on October 1.

National Police and Guardia Civil officers are reportedly involved in the search to find a new leadership structure for the Mossos amid fears pro-independence supporters are planning acts of civil disobedience to prevent Article 155 being applied. Among the powers Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s prime minister, has asked the country’s senate to approve under Article 155 is the dismissal of Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan president, and his cabinet, besides the possibility of replacing members of the 17,000-strong Mossos police force with agents from national corps.

The government has increased pressure on Mr Puigdemont to decide whether he will stand by his claim that Catalonia has “a mandate” to declare independence or see direct rule imposed.

The opposition socialists said they would not support direct rule if Mr Puigdemont decided to call snap elections before the senate triggered Article 155 on Friday. Mr Rajoy’s Popular Party (PP) claimed such a step would not defuse the crisis.

“The calling of elections in Catalonia would not paralyse the parliamentary processing of Article 155. Secession will be avoided by restoring legality,” said Pablo Casado, the PP’s deputy spokesman. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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