Spain Catalonia: Bail hearing for separatist ministers

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Spain Catalonia: Bail hearing for separatist ministers

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Reuters

Image caption

Seven of the eight ex-ministers were pictured arriving at court in November

Spain’s Supreme Court is hearing a bail application for eight former ministers of Catalonia’s regional government, detained over its independence bid.

The eight were remanded in custody last month over fears they could attempt to abscond, after former President Carles Puigdemont fled to Belgium.

They are accused of rebellion and sedition over the region’s illegal declaration of independence.

The court is also hearing applications from two independence activists.

After an attempt by Catalan separatists to declare independence in October, Spain imposed direct rule on the region and called early regional elections for 21 December.

Lawyers for the ministers say they are asking to be released on bail, on condition that they accept the rule of law from Madrid and will pledge not to flee.

Privately, senior sources in the Spanish government say they would like to see the ministers released and allow them to campaign in the elections, the BBC’s Gavin Lee reports from Madrid.

They fear a martyr effect from their continued imprisonment, that could serve to galvanise support for pro-independence parties.

‘Nothing to fear’

The ministers have been in prison since 2 November. They are

  • Former Deputy Vice President Oriol Junqueras
  • Former Interior Minister Joaquim Forn
  • Former foreign policy chief 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

Lawyers have spoken of their difficulty adjusting to prison life, with one reportedly witnessing the stabbing of an inmate in front of him.

Rebellion is considered one of the most serious crimes in Spain, carrying a jail term of up to 30 years.

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EPA

Image caption

Rallies have been held in Catalonia in support of the detainees

Antonio López-Istúriz White, a member of the European Parliament from Spain’s ruling People’s Party, told the BBC there should be no problem in securing the ministers’ release if they promise not to flee.

“If there is a clear statement by them that they want to go by the law and they want to run in the next elections on 21 December – legal elections, which have been called in all of Catalonia – then there’s nothing to fear,” he said.

Mr Puigdemont remains in Belgium with four other former ministers, opposing a Spanish extradition request to face the same charges.

Independence activists Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart were remanded in custody on 16 October on suspicion of sedition.

Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

Jordi Cuixart (left) and Jordi Sánchez (right) faced a judge in Madrid on Monday

They are being investigated over a protest on 20 September in which a crowd blocked police officers inside a building in Barcelona, Catalonia’s regional capital.

Catalonia’s parliament declared independence on 27 October, based on the outcome of an illegal referendum on 1 October.

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