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High Court issues international arrest warrant for former Catalan premier

Source: El Pais - Sun 5th Nov 2017
High Court issues international arrest warrant for former Catalan premier

High Court Judge Carmen Lamela has issued a national and international arrest warrant for former Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont, who is currently in Brussels. As well as the ex-president of the northeastern Spanish region, the order also seeks the detention of four of his former ministers in the Catalan government, who are also in Belgium, and all of whom ignored a judicial order to appear in the national court this week on charges of rebellion, sedition and misappropriation of funds related to the Catalan secessionist drive.

The warrant seeks the detention of Puigdemont, Antoni Comín (ex-health minister), Clara Ponsatí (education), Meritxell Serret (agriculture) and Lluís Puig (culture).

In her writ, Judge Lamela states that Puigdemont took advantage of his role at the head of the Catalan government to “hold an independence referendum to achieve the secession of Catalonia within Spain,” together with other authorities, public servants and public and private Catalan institutions. “To do so, they promoted and used intimidating and violent force from the pro-independence sectors of the population, calling for insurrection and challenging the constitutional order.”

From Brussels, ousted Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont has been decrying Spain’s “attacks against democracy” and stating that there is no separation of powers in the country. On Friday, Spanish government spokesman Íñigo Méndez de Vigo defended this separation, and underscored that the only goal behind its removal of the governing team in Catalonia is “to restore constitutional order” as soon as possible.

Earlier in the day, the High Court dismissed an appeal to release the leaders of two Catalan civic associations who are in pre-trial detention over their role in a Barcelona protest where demonstrators vandalized Civil Guard patrol cars.

Jordi Sánchez, the head of the National Catalan Assembly (ANC), and Jordi Cuixart, the head of Òmnium Cultural, have been in custody since October 16 in connection with a criminal probe over the events of September 20, when an angry crowd congregated outside a building where the Civil Guard was conducting a raid ahead of the October 1 illegal independence referendum in the region.

Meanwhile, the former head of the Catalan business department, Santi Vila, on Friday walked out of a Madrid prison where he had spent one night after posting bail of €50,000. He was the only one of a group of nine former Catalan government members to be offered a chance to avoid preventive custody.

The others, including ex-deputy premier Oriol Junqueras, have been sent to various Madrid penitentiaries after the judge ruled they are a high flight risk. They all face charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds over their push to secede from Spain.

Speaking to the media following his release, Vila asked political parties to mediate in the conflict between Madrid and Barcelona.

“Disproportionate measures have been adopted. I am convinced that most democrats of the world do not understand this,” he said. “I urge all political parties in Spain, appealing to their democratic values, to end this terrible situation that has put politicians in prison. We’re not going to solve this inside the courts.”

Vila resigned his position one day before 70 separatist deputies voted in favor of a document declaring independence and paving the way for a Catalan republic. His resignation illustrated his disagreement with former premier Carles Puigdemont’s last-minute decision to push ahead with the unconstitutional declaration, instead of calling early elections in the region.

Now, Vila wants to run as a candidate for the moderate wing of the Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCAT) in the December 21 election, which was called last week by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in a bid to restore normality to the region.

New election

Also on Friday, Minister Méndez de Vigo added that jailed Catalan officials may still participate in the December 21 ballot. “As long as there is no final court judgment, everyone’s civil rights are intact and they may run in elections,” he said.

Despite rejecting the Spanish Constitution in their independence declaration last Friday, separatist parties have accepted the new election set by Madrid, and are considering their options for a joint bid.

PDeCAT and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) have been partners in Catalonia’s governing coalition Junts pel Sí since the 2015 election, when they secured 48% of the vote and 62 seats. Marta Pascal, the PDeCAT coordinator, said on Friday that her party wants to run with ERC again, but the latter so far seems more inclined to go it alone.

“This is a time for generosity. Let us seek solutions, not battles or reproaches,” she said, suggesting disagreement within the pro-independence movement.

The National Statistics Institute has published the voter census for December 21. A total of 5,553,983 people will have the right to vote, of whom 224,844 are residents abroad.

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