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Spanish judge sends eight former Catalan officials to jail

By
Sara Shayanian
Former Catalan officials arrive to testify Thursday in response to a court order, which mandated they explain their actions in Catalonia's failed bid for independence. Photo by Fernando Alvarado/EPA
Former Catalan officials arrive to testify Thursday in response to a court order, which mandated they explain their actions in Catalonia's failed bid for independence. Photo by Fernando Alvarado/EPA

Nov. 2 (UPI) -- A Spanish high court judge on Thursday ordered former deputy Catalan premier Oriol Junqueras and seven other ousted officials jailed, after they were ordered to testify concerning their roles in Catalonia's bid for independence.

Judge Carmen Lamela agreed to hold the eight ousted leaders in pre-trial custody after prosecutors requested all former members of the Catalan cabinet be detained -- with the exception of Santi Vila, who immediately resigned after Catalonia's independence declaration last week. He will have to pay a nearly $60,000 bond to avoid prison.

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Lamela justified the decision, saying the accused "made use of the population to encourage acts of public insurrection, disobedience and collective resistance."

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau tweeted Thursday was a "black day for Catalonia" because of the arrests.

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The move was made to ensure none of the former leaders would flee the country, as former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and ex-officials Clara Ponsati, Antoni Comín, Lluis Puig and Meritxell Serret did, to Belgium.

Puigdemont and 13 members of his former administration defied orders to appear in court Thursday. The Spanish Supreme Court said further refusal could lead to arrest warrants.

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Eight ex-Catalan officials, though, did comply and appeared Thursday to face charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds for their role in the failed bid to secede from Spain -- a move spurred by voters in an Oct. 1 referendum.

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"When an individual fails to appear when summoned by a judge, the normal procedure in Spain and any other European Union country is to issue an arrest warrant," Carlos Lesmes, head of the Spanish Supreme Court, said.

Puigdemont said Wednesday he would make himself available to Spanish courts if he is guaranteed a fair trial.

Carmela has yet to issue a decision regarding an arrest warrant for Puigdemont and the other officials in Brussels.

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Madrid has said the referendum vote -- in which 90 percent of Catalan residents favored full independence -- was illegal. Catalonia is already semi-autonomous.

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