Spanish court remands Catalan presidential candidate in custody

Judge says 13 Catalan leaders, including Jordi Turull and Carles Puigdemont, will be charged with rebellion

A Spanish supreme court judge has charged Jordi Turull, Catalonia’s presidential candidate, with rebellion and ordered him to remain in custody less than 24 hours before he was due to attend an investiture debate.

On Friday morning, Judge Pablo Llarena announced that 13 senior Catalan leaders – including Turull and the deposed regional president, Carles Puigdemont – would be charged with rebellion over their roles in last year’s unilateral referendum and subsequent declaration of independence.

The judge later ruled that Turull and four others – among them the former speaker of the Catalan parliament – would be denied bail and remanded in custody.

The decision came hours after Marta Rovira, the general secretary of the pro-independence Catalan Republican Left party, failed to appear in court and fled to Switzerland. She was also charged with rebellion.

Llarena said the five detainees posed a serious flight risk and could seek to push ahead with their plans for unilateral independence if allowed to remain at liberty.

The decision was met with calls for demonstrations on the streets of Catalonia.

Puigdemont, who has been in self-imposed exile in Brussels for five months and faces immediate arrest should he return to Spain, said his former colleagues had been jailed for “their ideas and their commitment”, adding: “The anti-democratic Spanish state shames Europe.”

Announcing the rebellion charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment, Llarena said Catalan separatist politicians and grassroots groups had “colluded” for the past six years to draw up a plan for regional independence in defiance of Spain’s legal and constitutional order.

Among those also charged with the same offence are the former Catalan vice-president, Oriol Junqueras, and the senior civil society group figures Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez.

The judge ordered a total of 25 Catalan leaders be tried for rebellion, misuse of public funds or disobeying the state.

In a 70-page ruling, Llarena noted that, from 2012 onwards, the Catalan government had been “drawing up a route map for Catalonia’s transition process towards becoming an independent country” and co-ordinating the campaign with Cuixart and Sànchez’s influential grassroots groups.

Marta Rovira, who announced she was taking “the road to exile”.
Marta Rovira, who announced she was taking “the road to exile”. Photograph: Lluis Gene/AFP/Getty Images

“Despite repeated warnings that these parliamentary initiatives were unconstitutional and invalid … and despite the suspension and invalidation of the referendum decrees, the executive organs of the Catalan government pressed on with a permanent and obsessive agenda,” said the judge.

Llarena cast doubt on whether the former Catalan government had abandoned its independence drive, saying it appeared to be “latent and awaiting reactivation”.

The announcement of the charges followed Thursday night’s investiture debate in the Catalan parliament, in which Turull’s first attempt to be elected was scuppered by the region’s most hardline pro-independence party.

Turull, Puigdemont’s former chief of staff and the third candidate to be proposed for the presidency since the elections last December, failed to win the support of the regional parliament after the far-left, anti-capitalist Popular Unity Candidacy (Cup) announced that it would no longer work in coalition with the two larger pro-independence parties.

A second investiture debate is due to be held on Saturday morning.

The debate on Thursday has started the constitutional and electoral clock ticking. Parties have two months to propose and elect a presidential candidate. If none is successful within that time, fresh Catalan elections will be held in mid-July.

Catalonia has been under direct rule from Madrid since the end of October, when Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, responded to the unilateral independence declaration by sacking Puigdemont and his government and calling a snap election.


Sam Jones in Madrid

The GuardianTramp

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