Spanish judge jails proposed Catalan leader hours ahead of planned inauguration

Spanish judge jails proposed Catalan leader hours ahead of planned inauguration

Spanish judge jails proposed Catalan leader hours ahead of planned inauguration

A month later, he unilaterally declared independence, prompting Madrid to intervene in the autonomous region and call elections there in December - where the pro-independence parties once again won a bigger share of the vote than parties loyal to the Spanish crown.

The Catalan politicians face an array of charges ranging from misuse of public funds to rebellion, the most serious crime, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 30 years upon conviction. Hoping to end the separatist challenge, Mr. Rajoy then called the election, which instead left Catalonia in a political deadlock.

All five left Spain following a proclamation of independence for Catalonia in October. Judge Llarena is reactivating an arrest warrant that he dropped previous year against Mr. Puigdemont and other former members of his cabinet, amid concerns that courts in Belgium, where he fled, would instead soften the charges against them. The latest failure, on Thursday, started a two-month countdown for either a government to be formed or for another ballot in the restive region.

In a court ruling issued Friday, Judge Llarena said that 25 Catalans in total will be tried for rebellion, embezzlement or disobedience.

"It is not right for a judge to do politics", Puigdemont said.

Spain's Supreme Court said on Friday that it would prosecute for "rebellion" 13 Catalan separatists.

The indictment Friday appeared to scotch hopes of breaking the political deadlock and installing a new Catalan government any time soon.

Judge Llarena described the case as "an attack on the constitutional State that, through the desire to impose a change in the form of government for Catalonia and the rest of the country, is of unusual gravity and persistence".

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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.

A prominent Catalan separatist politician has defied a summons to appear in a Spanish court and says in a letter to her party followers that she has chosen "the path to exile". She issued a letter explaining why she had chosen "the path of exile", but Judge Llarena later added her name to his list of global arrest warrants.

A Spanish Supreme Court probe into last year's attempt to secede Catalonia from Spain wraps up Friday with the judge expected to charge 28 regional politicians and separatist leaders with offenses that may include rebellion.

Judge Pablo Llarena has summoned lawyers, prosecutors, as well as six separatist politicians - an indication that he may order them jailed pending trial.

Thousands of protesters have filled the streets of Barcelona after Spain's High Court jailed five Catalan politicians who played a role in the region's declaration of independence.

Four other accused are already in custody and six have fled overseas.

Catalonia has been under direct rule from Madrid since last October, when Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy responded to the unilateral independence declaration by sacking Puigdemont and his government.

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