Madrid prosecutor calls for sedition charges against Catalan separatist leaders | News | DW | 30.10.2017
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Madrid prosecutor calls for sedition charges against Catalan separatist leaders

Spain's state prosecutor has called for charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds to be brought against Catalonia's separatist leaders. Madrid has taken direct control over the region.

Attorney-General Jose Manuel Maza has called on the leaders of the Catalan independence movement to be called to testify in court.

Under Spain's legal system, the request goes to a judge for consideration. 

Rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds can carry punishments, respectively, of up to 30, 15 and six years in prison under Spanish laws.

Maza said on Monday he would ask the judges for preventive measures against the officials, but didn't specify if those included their immediate arrest and being sent to jail while awaiting trial.

One lawsuit seeks charges against ousted Catalan officials in the country's National Court, including regional leader Carles Puigdemont and his No. 2 official, Oriol Junqueras, although Maza didn't name them.

A second lawsuit that concerns members of the governing body of Catalonia's parliament, including Speaker Carme Forcadell, was filed in the country's Supreme Court.

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont could face several years behind bars

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont could face several years behind bars

A fluid situation

Meanwhile, Catalonia's parliament cancelled a meeting scheduled for Tuesday following the Spanish government's takeover of the region, a parliamentary source told the news agency Reuters, confirming the regional legislative had accepted Madrid's order for it to dissolve.

It remained unclear on Monday if government officials and regional lawmakers who declared Catalan independence on Friday would seek to gain access to their offices and if the Catalan police Mossos d'Esquadra would prevent them.

Puigdemont on Monday morning posted a photo of a courtyard at the seat of the regional government in central Barcelona, accompanied by the words "Good morning" in Catalan and a smiley emoticon. It remains unclear if he is inside the premises.

 A member of the ousted Cabinet showed up at work later on Monday and posted a photo on social media from his office. Josep Rull's tweet said: "In the office, exercising the responsibilities entrusted to us by the people of Catalonia."

Spanish authorities said that the deposed officials will be allowed to take their personal belongings from official buildings, but barred from performing any official duties.

The 12 members of the former cabinet, including Puigdemont, face charges of usurping others' functions if they try to remain in power.

Spain's Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said at the weekend it was "hard to see" how Catalan president, Puigdemont — and others who prosecutors may charge with sedition this week — "will go on governing."

La Vanguardia newspaper said on Sunday that members of the Catalan cabinet had left their offices, which were now under the central government's effective control.

Taking part in the December elections

The Catalan pro-independence party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) said on Monday it will take part in the elections called by the central government for December 21..

"Taking part on December 21 is an opportunity to better consolidate the Republic ... They've called illegitimate elections, a trap. However, we're not afraid of the ballot box," MP Sergi Sabria said.

Dastis said he hoped and believed the regional election would result in the territory remaining part of Spain.

"We hope, with the help of these elections, to restore legal governance and rule of law in Catalonia," Dastis said, speaking through an interpreter during a briefing in Kiev. "We hope and believe that after these elections, Catalonia will again be the same society it was before: open and integrated." he said.

There were large anti-independence marches in Barcelona on Sunday.

Yes, or no, minister?

Some 200,000 Catalan civil servants are now meant to take direct orders from Madrid.

The largest civic group behind the pro-independence campaign has called for civil disobedience and given detailed instructions to the civil servants working for the Catalan region as to how they should behave.

A key problem for executing direct rule is Catalonia's own police forces, the Mossos d'Esquadra. On Saturday, the Mossos chief Josep Lluis Trapero was fired. The new chief told officers they should remain neutral.

In an open letter on Sunday, Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido praised the Mossos for their work and urged them to accept temporary direction from Madrid.

Several officers told the news agency Reuters the 17,000-strong force was split between those who want independence and those who oppose it.

"We have opened a new chapter and in this new chapter the Mossos d'Esquadra will become again the police of all the Catalans. This is your duty," Zoido said in the letter.

Capital flight?

Another test will be whether companies stop relocating out of Catalonia in search of stability and legal certainty after several hundred moved out earlier this month.

The economy and budget ministries took full control over regional finances on Friday.

The Spanish economy could grow by over 2.5 percent in 2018, the Economy Minister Luis de
Guindos said on Monday, after cutting next year's growth forecast to 2.3 percent due to the political crisis in Catalonia.

De Guindos also said he expected many companies originally based in Catalonia to return to the region.

A media fight

The Spanish government had initially said it would control widely watched Catalan public television TV3, but it eventually dropped the plan.

The media is likely to play an important role in the run-up to the new election in Catalonia.

With its own language and distinct culture, Catalonia accounts for about 16 percent of Spain's population and a fifth of the country's economy.

Watch video 03:41

Mass march for unity in Barcelona: DW's Charlotte Chelsom-Pill

jbh/jm (Reuters, AFP)

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