Margaret Neighbour

Josep Luis Trapero (C), chief of the Catalan police Mossos d'Esquadra who is under investigation for sedition, arrives at the High Court in Madrid. Picture: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty
Josep Luis Trapero (C), chief of the Catalan police Mossos d'Esquadra who is under investigation for sedition, arrives at the High Court in Madrid. Picture: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty
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A Spanish judge has said Catalonia’s regional police chief may remain free with restrictions in a sedition case tied to the region’s staging of a banned independence referendum.

The National Court judge yesterday rejected a prosecutor’s request to jail Major Josep Lluis Trapero over the vote on 1 October. But the judge withdrew Trapero’s passport, said he must remain in Spain and ordered him to appear in court every two weeks.

Trapero, another regional police officer and the leaders of two pro-independence associations are under investigation for sedition for their roles in 20-21 September demonstrations in Barcelona.

Spanish police arrested several Catalan officials and raided offices in a crackdown on referendum preparations during the demonstrations.

The court said the rulings could be changed if Trapero disobeys the conditions.

Earlier, Spain’s deputy prime minister said Catalonia’s leader did not give an adequate response in his letter about the region’s independence and has until Thursday to comply with the country’s laws.

Carles Puigdemont’s letter, issued two hours before a yesterday’s deadline, did not clarify whether he in fact declared Catalonia’s independence from Spain. He called for talks with Spain’s government.

Spain’s central government wanted a simple “yes” or “no” answer from Mr Puigdemont, something that Spanish deputy prime minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said that he did not provide.

Ms Saenz de Santamaria said that “it wasn’t very difficult to say yes or no.

“That was the question that was asked and the response shouldn’t be complicated.”

She said he has until Thursday morning to fall in line, or faces the possibility of Spain activating Article 155 of the Constitution which would allow the central government to take over parts of Catalonia’s self-governance.

She said Mr Puigdemont’s call for dialogue is “not credible” and Spain’s national parliament is the place for talks.

Mr Puigdemont had called for dialogue with Madrid and asked for a meeting with the country’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy, complying with a deadline of yesterday to respond to a request from the central government to state explicitly whether he had declared Catalonian independence.

Mr Puigdemont wrote in his four-page letter: “The priority of my government is to intensively seek a path to dialogue. We want to talk … Our proposal for dialogue is sincere and honest.”

Spain has repeatedly said that it is not willing to sit down with Mr Puigdemont if calls for independence are on the table, or accept any form of international mediation.