Saturday, 5 December 2020

Spanish Court frees Catalan Parliament Speaker on bail

Ex-speaker of the Catalonia parliament

MADRID: Speaker Carme Forcadell will be transferred to the Alcala Meco prison outside Madrid and kept there until she pays €150,000 bail, court sources said.

A Spanish judge on Thursday freed on bail the Catalan parliament’s speaker and four lawmakers while authorities continue to investigate their roles in Catalonia’s banned independence drive.

The Supreme Court had summoned them to answer charges of rebellion after they enabled an October 27 declaration of independence that prompted the Spanish government to dissolve the Catalan parliament and sack the regional administration.

Speaker Carme Forcadell will be transferred to the Alcala Meco prison outside Madrid and kept there until she pays €150,000 bail, court sources said. The four lawmakers must pay bail of € 25,000 while a fifth was released without bail.

Judge Pablo Llarena wrote in Thursday’s ruling: “All the accused … have expressed that either they renounce future political activity or, those that remain active, will in future renounce any actions outside the constitutional framework.”

The judge’s decision to reject prosecutors’ requests to jail them gives the separatists, whose leader Carles Puigdemont went into self-imposed exile in Belgium last week, some breathing space as lower courts have been steadily tightening the legal noose.

Eight former members of the Catalan government and the leaders of the two main pro-independence grassroots groups remain in custody awaiting trial at the High Court on charges of rebellion and sedition.

On Thursday, the High Court rejected an appeal presented by their lawyers for their release, a court spokeswoman said.

The High Court last week issued an arrest warrant on rebellion charges for Mr. Puigdemont, the former regional government president, and four former members of his cabinet who are with him in Brussels.

After the ruling, Mr. Puigdemont tweeted: “Carme Forcadell will spend the night in prison for allowing a democratic debate. For allowing speaking and voting! That’s Spanish democracy for you.”

The Catalan independence push has deeply divided Spain, dragging it into its worst political crisis since the return of democracy four decades ago and fuelling anti-Spanish sentiment in Catalonia and nationalist tendencies elsewhere.

The struggle has also divided Catalonia itself, and cracks have begun appearing within the pro-independence movement.

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