World

Spain’s High Court summons sacked Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont amid rebellion charges

.

The disposed leader is currently in Brussels and has consulted with a lawyer there.

Earlier today Mr Puigdemont warned EU leaders they are facing the “end of the idea of Europe” if they fail to take action over Spain’s “violent and oppressive” response to its independence referendum.

The court called for Mr Puigdemont along with 13 other members of his deposed administration to testify on Thursday at 9am (local time).

Catalan president Carles PuigdemontReuters

Carles Puigdemont in Brussels

Spain’s Attorney General Jose Manuel Maza filed a lawsuit against Mr Puigdemont on Monday, citing the crimes of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement and the Catalan President faces up to 30 years in prison.

According to Spanish law, rebellion charges may apply to those who “violently and publicly” try to “abrogate, suspend or modify the Constitution, either totally or partially,” or “declare the independence of part of the national territory”.

The crime of rebellion carries jail sentences of up to 30 years.

Mr Maza said: “The Finance Ministry, in order to promote justice, is liable for crimes of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement crimes against those responsible for the parliament.

Catalonia declares independence, in pictures

Sat, October 28, 2017

Catalan independence supporters cry tears of joy after Catalonia's parliament voted to declare independence from Spain and proclaim a republic, just as Madrid is poised to impose direct rule on the region to stop it in its track




Play slideshow

Fireworks go off in front of the Catalan regional government headquarters during celebratrions after the Catalan regional parliament declared independence from Spain in Barcelona REUTERS

1 of 34

Fireworks go off in front of the Catalan regional government headquarters during celebratrions after the Catalan regional parliament declared independence from Spain in Barcelona

The Prosecutor’s Office will continue to exercise its functions with impartiality.”

Mr Puigdemont recently travelled to Brussels in a bid to make the European Union (EU) leaders aware of the full extent of the crisis in the north east region of Spain and what he described as the “aggressive” behaviour of the Madrid administration after the fledgling country attempted to breakaway from Spain despite moves to prevent it from doing so.

Mr Puigdemont recently travelled to Brussels in a bid to make the European Union (EU) leaders aware of the full extent of the crisis in the north east region of Spain and what he described as the “aggressive” behaviour of the Madrid administration after the fledgling country attempted to breakaway from Spain despite moves to prevent it from doing so.

The leader said during a press conference in Brussels that Catalonia would not accept the imposition of Article 155, which allows Madrid to take full control of the semi-autonomous region, saying that it would “destroy” the region.

Carles Puigdemont speaking in Brussels.

Carles Puigdemont makes his argument to the world's media in Brussels

He added that ministers are working to make it impossible for Madrid to "dismantle Catalan institutions."

He railed against the "aggression and violence against millions of people who exercised their right to vote" in a scathing attack on Spain in front of journalists today.

He said "we've seen a very aggressive offensive against the Catalans".

He added the priority is no violence, saying: "You can't build a republic upon violence.

Mariano Rajoy and Soraya Saez de Santamaria (R),EPA

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his deputy Soraya Saez de Santamaria (R)

"Peace and dialogue are our priority."

He said the charges against him, of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds, are an example of the "extreme opression" from Madrid.

Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel said that Mr Puigdemont had not been invited to the country, a day after he arrived unannounced following his dismissal by Madrid on charges of rebellion over Catalonia's independence bid.

Mr Michel said: "He will be treated like any other European citizen.

"He has the same rights and duties… no more, no less."

Supporters of independence in Catalonia's capital BarcelonaReuters

Pro-independence supporters demonstrate in Barcelona

Deputy premier Kris Peeters said: "When you declare independence, it's better to stay with your people."

Mr Puigdemont himself told a news conference in Brussels that he was there to engage with the EU – which has shunned his pleas – and not to exploit Belgium's reputation as a place of political asylum for citizens of other EU states.

Nonetheless, he travelled to a small town in western Flanders on Monday to hire a human rights lawyer with a successful track record of fighting extradition to Spain on behalf of Basque separatist sympathisers.

The lawyer, Paul Bekaert warned, however, that EU rules have made it harder.

He told Reuters that the European Arrest Warrant system had removed exceptions previously made for extraditions to face "political" charges like sedition in other EU states.

Related articles

Ahead of elections in Belgium in 18 months time there have already been tensions over Catalonia within the coalition, where Flemish nationalists sympathetic to the Catalans are a major force and Michel, a French-speaking liberal, has lately tried to mollify Madrid.

Mr Bekaert said Puigdemont, who faces up to 30 years in jail if Spanish prosecutors follow through on plans to charge him with sedition and misuse of public funds, saw no hurry to file for asylum, a simple procedure that would halt any extradition.

However, asylum requests from EU citizens are rarely accepted nowadays and are often rejected within days.

Dirk Vanheule, a law professor at Antwerp University and president of Belgium's Refugee Council said: ”As an EU citizen, Puigdemont has to demonstrate that there is a clear risk of prosecution against him, that the sentence he could face could be disproportionate, that he doesn't have a fair trial in Spain.

"If he fails to demonstrate that from the beginning, the asylum proceeding can be terminated within five days."

Catalonia campaigning for independence in Barcelona.

Catalonia has seen deep divisions in the country since the referendum on October 1

Koen Lemmens, a human rights lawyer and professor at Leuven University, said the Belgian asylum agency would not take into account potential diplomatic embarrassment.

But it would be up to Mr Puigdemont to prove he would not get a fair trial.

The Belgian government appears to be unwilling to back him up.

Mr Michel annoyed Spain by speaking out against police violence as people voted in the October 1 independence referendum.

But he also slapped down his Flemish nationalist immigration minister for suggesting at the weekend that Belgium might grant asylum.

Demonstrators in Barcelona.

Catalonia has seen a number of demonstrations recently both for and against independence

That did not stop the French-speaking Socialist opposition from accusing Mr Michel of damaging Belgium's credibility abroad.

Any EU citizen can stay for up to three months without permission.

And despite support for Madrid from the Belgian government, judges refused in 1996 and again, under new EU rules, in 2004 to extradite Luis Moreno and Raquel Garcia, whom it accused of aiding Basque militants.

The N-VA has soft-pedalled demands for splitting the richer, Dutch-speaking half of Belgium off but with elections looming it must be wary of the small, anti-immigration Vlaams Belang, whose leader attended Mr Puigdemont's Brussels news conference.

Pro-unity supporters in Barcelona.

Pro-unity supporters for a united Spain demonstrate in Barcelona

VB leader Tom Van Grieken called on N-VA ministers to break with Michel's refusal to recognise Catalan independence.

Mark Demesmaeker, an N-VA member of the European Parliament, told Reuters he met Puigdemont in Barcelona a month ago and said he did have a case for asylum as the EU "looks the other way".

"The fact he is coming here already says plenty enough about the situation in Spain and Catalonia.

"He has no faith in the Spanish judiciary."

Related articles

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Close
%d bloggers like this: