Spain rejects plan to install nationalist Catalan leader

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Spain’s government has rejected a plan by separatists in Catalonia’s regional parliament to elect prominent secessionist politician Jordi Turull as Catalan president.

The secretary of state for territorial administration, Roberto Bermudez de Castro, said yesterday’s vote in Barcelona is just another ploy in the region’s frustrated attempt to gain independence.

Jordi Turull is the third candidate proposed by separatists (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Jordi Turull is the third candidate proposed by separatists (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

He told the Spanish Senate the government will oppose the election of any candidate who faces legal proceedings.

Mr Turull is among former officials facing possible rebellion charges over the regional parliament’s failed attempt last year to break away from Spain. A Supreme Court judge overseeing the rebellion investigation plans to issue indictments today.

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Mr Turull is the third candidate proposed by pro-­independence politicians since a December election.

The central government is currently running Catalonia from Madrid.

In an hour-long speech to fellow MPs outlining the policies he would pursue if elected, Mr Turull did not mention the words “independence” or “republic”. He said he wants to foster dialogue with Spain’s central authorities, but he did not specify what the dialogue should cover.

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Spain’s national government rejected the separatists’ plan to put Mr Turull in power. The vote in Barcelona was another ploy in the region’s frustrated goal of gaining independence, Mr Bermudez de Castro said.

The central government has been running Catalonia from Madrid since snatching away Catalonia’s regional powers over the October breakaway vote, which courts have ruled unconstitutional.

Mr Bermudez de Castro told the Spanish Senate the government will oppose the election of any candidate who faces legal proceedings.

A Supreme Court judge overseeing the rebellion investigation plans to issue indictments today, and Mr Turull could be among those charged.

That could lead to Mr Turull being imprisoned and, at a later stage, possibly banned from public office.

“I prefer to accept the risk of being a victim of injustice than to back away from what is happening,” Mr Turull told the Catalan assembly during his speech.

If Mr Turull is not jailed today, parliament rules give him a second chance to be considered as the north-eastern region’s leader tomorrow, when he would need a simple majority of votes.

Also yesterday, the Spanish Supreme Court rejected an appeal to release two other Catalan independence leaders from pre-trial detention while a judge investigates Catalonia’s attempt to secede.

The top court ruled that there was still a risk that Joaquim Forn, the ousted Catalan interior minister, and Jordi Sanchez, the former president of the pro-independence civil rights group ANC, to repeat the offences that landed them in jail.

Earlier this week Catalonia’s fugitive ex-president said independence for the region is not the “only option” for resolving the crisis.

Carles Puigdemont said a moderate alternative could be adopting Switzerland’s canton model, which would give more self-rule to Spain’s regions.