Spanish court jails eight sacked Catalan ministers in Madrid

Former members of the Catalan government, from left, Joaquin Forn, Raul Romeva, Josep Rull, Carles Mundo, Jordi Turull, Dolors Bassa and Meritxel Borras arrive at Spain's National High Court. Picture: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez
Former members of the Catalan government, from left, Joaquin Forn, Raul Romeva, Josep Rull, Carles Mundo, Jordi Turull, Dolors Bassa and Meritxel Borras arrive at Spain's National High Court. Picture: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez
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A Spanish judge has ordered eight ex-members of the government in Catalonia jailed while they are investigated on possible charges of sedition, rebellion and embezzlement.

Investigative magistrate Carmen Lamela issued the ruling yesterday at the request of prosecutors who are pursuing a criminal case stemming from the declaration of secession the parliament of Catalonia made on Friday.

The judge set bail for one of the nine former members of the Catalan cabinet, saying he would be freed if he pays €50,000 (£44,000).

Carles Puigdemont, the former president of Catalonia, and four other ex-cabinet members are in Belgium and ignored court summonses to appear for questioning.

The Spanish government invoked constitutional authority last week to take over running Catalonia following the region’s declaration of independence.

Madrid dismissed the Catalan cabinet, dissolved the regional parliament and called a new regional election for 21 December.

A prosecutor has also asked the National Court judge to issue an international arrest warrant for ousted regional president Mr Puigdemont and four of his ex-ministers.

The National Court has been questioning ousted Catalan government members but a parallel Supreme Court session for six Catalan politicians was postponed for a week.

About two dozen politicians and elected officials from Catalan separatist parties gathered at the gates of the Supreme Court.

It came after the chief prosecutor demanded they be charged following the Catalan parliament’s declaration of secession on 27 October.

The crimes are punishable by up to 30 years in prison under Spanish law.

“If the question is if in Spain you can trust the judicial system, my answer is no,” said Artur Mas, a former president of the Catalan government.

“From the personal point of view and also for my personal experience, I don’t think that there are all the guarantees to have a fair trial.”

Earlier this year, Mr Mas was banned by a Barcelona court from holding public office for two years after he ignored a Constitutional Court ruling and went ahead with a mock vote on Catalonia’s independence in 2014.

Assumpcio Lailla, a former official with Catalonia’s Democrats party, said she had travelled to Madrid joining around 100 other politicians and elected officials to show support to those investigated.

“This is an unjust situation in which they are being investigated for facilitating democracy,” she said. “I don’t understand how Europe can look away from democracy.”

Across the street, half a dozen protesters with Spanish flags were stopped by police. They shouted at the Catalan politicians, “cowards” and “to jail, to jail”.

In Barcelona, the Catalan regional capital, thousands of people rallied outside the regional presidential palace in Sant Jaume Square at noon to show their support, clapping and chanting slogans in favour of independence.

The protracted political crisis over Catalonia, Spain’s worst in decades, could have an impact on the country’s economic growth, Spain’s central bank warned in a report published yesterday.

The Bank of Spain had assessed the potential consequences of two possible scenarios: one is a temporary period of uncertainty in the fourth quarter of 2017 which could shave 0.3 percentage points off forecast growth through the end of 2019. The other scenario was a “severe and prolonged” crisis, which would bring an accumulated decrease of 2.5 percentage points in Spain’s gross domestic product between the end of 2017 and 2019.

That, it said, could spell a recession for the Catalan economy.