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Catalonia crisis: Protests as ex-ministers held in Spanish custody

Kathmandu

Nov 3, 2017-Thousands of Catalans have protested against the detention of eight regional ministers sacked over Catalonia's push for independence from Spain, BBC repoted.

The officials - who appeared in Spain's high court - are accused of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.

Prosecutors are also seeking a European Arrest Warrant for ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who did not show up in court and is now in Belgium.

The request also covers four other ex-ministers who ignored the summons.

Spain has been gripped by a constitutional crisis since a referendum on independence from Spain was held in Catalonia on 1 October in defiance of a constitutional court ruling that had declared it illegal.

Last week, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy imposed direct rule on Catalonia, dissolving the regional parliament and calling local elections for 21 December.

This came after Catalan lawmakers voted to declare the independence of the affluent north-eastern region.

The Catalan government said that of the 43% of potential voters who took part in the referendum, 90% were in favour of independence.

On Thursday, thousands of people gathered outside Catalonia's regional parliament in Barcelona.

Many carried Catalan flags and slogans that read "Freedom for political prisoners".

Similar protest rallies were held in other Catalan towns.

Political parties and civic groups in the affluent north-eastern region also condemned the judicial move,

What happened in Spain's high court in Madrid?

Nine out of 14 summoned Catalan ex-ministers appeared before Judge Carmen Lamela.

She said they had to be detained because they might otherwise leave the country or destroy evidence.

Those who were held are:

Former Deputy Vice-President Oriol Junqueras

Former Interior Minister Joaquim Forn

Former Foreign Affairs Minister Raül Romeva

Former Justice Minister Carles Mundó

Former Labour Minister Dolors Bassa

Former Government Presidency Councillor Jordi Turull

Former Sustainable Development Minister Josep Rull

Former Culture Minister Meritxell Borras

The ninth official, ex-Business Minister Santi Vila, was granted bail at the request of prosecutors. He quit before the Catalan parliament voted for independence last Friday.

In addition to Mr Puigdemont, prosecutors have asked Spain's high court judge to issue European arrest warrants for the following Catalan officials:

Meritxell Serret, former agriculture minister

Antoni Comín, former health minister

Lluís Puig, former culture minister

Clara Ponsatí, former education minister

Five other senior members of the Catalan parliament, as well as Speaker Carme Forcadell, are facing the same charges but, because of their parliamentary immunity, their cases are being handled by the Supreme Court.

Their hearings have been postponed until 9 November.

How did Carles Puigdemont react?

In a statement broadcast on Catalan TV from an undisclosed location in Belgium, he described the detentions as "an act that breaks with the basic principles of democracy".

"I demand the release of the ministers and the vice-president," he added.

Puigdemont, who was spotted in a Brussels cafe on Thursday, has said he will not return to Spain unless he receives guarantees of a fair trial. He did not specify his exact demands.

Belgium's federal prosecutor has said the law will be applied once an arrest warrant is received, according to Efe news agency.

 

Puigdemont's lawyer said the climate was "not good" for him to appear in court, but he also said his client would co-operate with the authorities in Spain and Belgium.

Published: 03-11-2017 11:38

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