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Catalan Parliament Speaker Detained Pending 150,000 Euro Bail

Catalan Parliament Speaker Detained Pending 150,000 Euro Bail

Friday, 10 November, 2017 - 07:00
Former speaker of Catalonia's sacked parliament Carme Forcadell arrives at the Supreme Court in Madrid on November 9, 2017 to be questioned over her role in Catalonia's independence drive. AFP

The speaker of Catalonia's sacked parliament, Carme Forcadell, was ordered detained Thursday over her region's controversial drive for independence from Spain, pending payment of a 150,000 euro bail, a spokesman for Spain's highest tribunal said.

Forcadell and five other deputies appeared in front of the court in Madrid on charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds -- which carry a maximum jail sentence of 30 years -- for aiding the Catalan parliament's secession bid.

They are suspected of having followed a "concerted strategy to declare independence", before the official declaration on October 27.

That declaration was annulled Wednesday by Spain's Constitutional Court.

Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena ordered one Catalan lawmaker freed, but the four others apart from Forcadell must pay 25,000 euros within a week to avoid jail.

Llarena wrote in the ruling: "All the accused ... have expressed that either they renounce future political activity or, those that remain active, will in future renounce any actions outside the constitutional framework.

Encouraged by their figurehead Carles Puigdemont, Catalan leaders voted to declare unilateral independence from Spain after going ahead with a banned referendum on October 1.

Separatists said 90 percent of voters opted for independence, but critics counter that pro-unity supporters had boycotted a plebiscite that violated Spain's constitution. 

In response, the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy suspended Catalan autonomy dismissing its parliament and government, and organized new regional elections for December 21. 

A judge in Madrid last week ordered that eight members of Puigdemont's sacked government be detained for their role in the secession drive.

Forcadell's spokesman told reporters that as Catalan parliamentary speaker she didn't "have the freedom to stop a vote" in the chamber on independence. 

Puigdemont and four former Catalan ministers are in self-imposed exile in Belgium and are due to appear before a judge next week after Madrid issued an EU-wide warrant for their extradition.

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