Catalan ex-ministers jailed

Catalan ex-ministers jailed

Eight sacked Catalan ministers have been jailed by a Spanish judge over their role in last month’s botched declaration of independence. The court action drove thousands to protest in Catalonia’s towns and cities, including Tarragona, Lleida, Girona and Barcelona.

Prosecutors have asked judges to issue an international arrest warrant for deposed Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Brussels with four of his former ministers. They were due to attend court yesterday [Thursday].

The ministers are accused of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds and face up to 30 years in prison. The jailed politicians called through their lawyers and on social media for all protests to be peaceful.

Ex-business minister Santi Vila was granted bail at the request of prosecutors as he resigned before the Catalan parliament voted for independence last Friday.

The National Court has been questioning former members of the Catalan administration.

Twenty Catalan politicians, including Puigdemont, were called to appear in court.

Five senior members of the regional parliament, including Speaker Carme Forcadell, are facing charges but, because of their parliamentary immunity, their cases are being handled by the Supreme Court and their hearings have been postponed until November 9.

Supreme court president Carlos Lesmes said: “When someone doesn’t appear after being cited by a judge to testify, in Spain or any other EU country, normally an arrest warrant is issued.”

The self-exiled regional government denounced the proceedings as a “political trial … without a legal basis that only seeks to punish ideas”.

Puigdemont said he would remain in Brussels “not to evade justice but to demand it” and described the court’s proposed “disproportionate penalties equivalent to murder or terrorism”.

He has hired a Belgian lawyer with experience in resisting extradition attempts.

Lawyer Paul Bekaert told Spain’s TV3: “He will not go to Madrid and I have suggested that he be questioned here in Belgium.”

Any Spanish application would also be subject to approval by judges in Belgium that the extradition was “proportional” to the seriousness of the offence and the costs of removing the individual.

Andrew Smith, an extradition specialist at the UK legal firm Corker Binning, said: “If a Spanish European arrest warrant is issued for Mr Puigdemont and his former ministers, the key questions for the Belgian extradition court are likely to be whether the criminal allegations are politically motivated and whether the Spanish authorities are acting abusively.

“Mutual trust is a central tenet of how the European arrest warrant operates between EU member states, but this extraordinary case looks set to test the limits of that trust.”

A pro-union protester in Catalonia at the weekend. Picture credit: YouTube

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.