The dismissed Catalan president decides not to appear before the Spanish Justice
The State Prosecutor's Office accuses the dismissed president Carles Puigdemont for the crime of sedition and rebellion, crimes that could amount to 30 years in prison. While Puigdemont remains "refugee" in Belgium, nine members of his separatist cabinet have presented themselves on Thursday in Madrid to testify before the National High Court.
(Barcelona). The Catalan independence process. Season Two. Chapter 1: Exactly one month after the controversial referendum for independence called by the Catalan government - and which the Spanish government tried to prevent by force because it was considered illegal -, the conflict between Madrid and Barcelona continues to run aground, this time in the courts.
The dismissed president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, announced on Wednesday from Belgium that he would not go to the court in Madrid on Thursday to face possible charges of rebellion and sedition, his lawyer said.
These crimes could mean up to 30 years in prison. Failure to present can force the National Court to claim extradition through the Euroorder, a part of this process will settle in Belgium, as it should be the justice of this country that decides whether to accept the delivery to Spain of President Puigdemont and three other members of his dismissed government who are with him, according to La Vanguardia.
Puigdemont appeared on Tuesday in Brussels, the capital of Belgium, after two days when he practically went missing. The former president of the Generalitat was dismissed from office on Friday, October 27, hours after the Catalonian Parliament approved by secret ballot the independence of Catalonia based on the results of the controversial referendum on October 1, which was carried out with all kinds of irregularities and that only had 42% participation.
Among the irregularities are the violent police charges ordered by the state government of Madrid to prevent the vote. The images of the riot brigades carrying batons against peaceful citizens armed only with ballots went around the world, giving a rather damaging image for the current Spanish government, led by Mariano Rajoy, of the conservative Popular Party.
The central government has been ignoring the Catalan separatist movement for six years, which has more than two million followers (in a population of 5.5 million voters) according to the results of the referendum. The separatists have been going out massively into the streets since 2012 - the year in which the Constitutional Court revoked the new Statute of autonomy approved by the Catalan parliament and the congress of deputies in Madrid thanks to pressure from the PP.
The fact of repealing the package of laws that regulate the relationship between the autonomous community and Madrid - which mainly demanded more fiscal and judicial autonomy for Catalonia - was the trigger for separatism, which was spurred by the independence coalition that ruled in Catalonia since 2015.
However, the entire Catalan leadership has been dismissed since Friday when the Senate approved the application of Article 155 of the Constitution in response to the challenge of declaring independence in an "illegal" manner. Article 155 has allowed the central government to suspend the autonomous powers of Catalonia and call regional elections on December 21.
Meanwhile, the State Prosecutor's Office has filed complaints against all councilors, including complaints of rebellion and sedition against the Catalan president and against the president of the Parliamentary Bureau, Carme Forcadell, and former president of the ANC separatist citizen platform. The ANC is the organization that is behind the separatist demonstrations and has an enormous mobilization capacity.
The current president of ANC, Jordi Sánchez, is in preventive detention together with another separatist citizen leader, Jordi Cuixart, since two weeks ago. Both were accused of crimes of sedition when they called demonstrations around the Ministry of Economy of Catalonia on September 20, when the Office of the Prosecutor ordered a series of searches and detentions in the government offices of the Generalitat in order to stop the referendum on independence. According to the prosecution, the two Jordis hampered law enforcement agents in executing a court order by summoning the demonstrators in front of the offices and preventing them from leaving until early in the morning.
Although it is true that the protesters blocked the entry and exit of the Ministry of Economy and caused damage to the patrol cars, it was a peaceful demonstration. Both the dismissed Catalan government and outstanding members of Catalan citizenship consider that Jordis are "political prisoners" and that their incarceration is a challenge to freedom of expression.
Several members of the Catalan Cabinet have come this Thursday in front of the Court of the National Court of Madrid to face the complaints that weigh against them. Puigdemont, through his lawyer, has chosen to stay in Belgium. The country has not offered him political asylum. If he doesn’t appear before the courts, the judge will be forced to issue a "euro-order" to request his extradition to Spain. On Tuesday, in an appearance before the press from Brussels, Puigdemont said he would not return to Spain until he was assured of a "trial with guarantees". The former president seems to have all his hopes set on drawing international attention from the heart of Europe.
"The conflict between Catalonia and Spain is an emotional conflict, and emotional problems are not resolved by laws or batons, they are resolved by dialogue," said Joan Montardit, a retired photographer last Saturday, from Plaça Sant Jaume in Barcelona, where is the seat of the Catalan government. Montardit wanted to spend the Saturday morning near the centenary Catalan institutions (older than the Spanish ones) annulled by article 155. He is aware that the declaration of independence last Friday has no real effects, because nobody has recognized the Catalan Republic at an international level, but he believes that it has been a symbolic act to place the Catalan problem on the map. "They have to understand once for all that they have to respect our way of being, our language, how we are."