Court decisions kick off campaign for landmark Catalan elections

Catalonian Parliament members attend a parliamentary session to vote on the referendum law at Parliament in Barcelona, Spain, 6 September 2017. [Marta Perez/ EPA]

Catalan parties will officially start campaigning at midnight on Monday for a regional parliamentary election on 21 December, as Supreme Court judges decided to keep pro-independence Catalan leaders in prison for being involved in violence prior to the region’s unilateral declaration of independence.

Spain’s Supreme Court confirmed on Monday the previous ruling to maintain in pre-trial custody the deposed Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras, former counsellor for interior Joaquim Forn, and activists Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart.

Meanwhile, six other members of the Catalan government – sacked by Madrid after the failed independence declaration on 27 October – will be allowed to leave the prison after paying a €100,000 bail.

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In his statement, the judge argued that Junqueras, Forn, Cuixart and Sanchez were “directly involved in an explosion of violence”, and there is therefore a major risk of repeating their actions.

On Monday, the dismissed Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, who had fled to Belgium with four members of his former cabinet, also appeared before the Belgian judge who should decide on his extradition to Spain.

The Belgian authorities said that a decision would be published on 14 December.

Puigdemont’s defence plan faces uphill battle as situation worsens

Deposed Catalan President Carles Puigdemont’s plan to avoid extradition to Spain citing a lack of guarantees for a fair trial in Madrid may prove hard to back up legally under European Arrest Warrant (EAW) rules.

Puigdemont and the four cabinet members escaped to Brussels after the declaration of independence and a Spanish judge has issued a European Arrest Warrant to request their extradition.

According to their lawyers, they oppose extradition for fear that their fundamental rights would be breached in Spain as they would not face a fair trial.

During the first hearing on 17 November, a Belgian public prosecutor validated most of the charges filed by Spain to sustain the warrant (including rebellion and sedition). This is the first step in order to execute the extradition.

The Brief: Puigdemont, the doomed architect

For some, ousted president Carles Puigdemont is the architect of a new independent Catalan Republic. For others, he is just a coward who led his citizens to chaos and ruin, and fled to Belgium. Today, he got his day in court.

According to a poll released on Monday by the Centre for Sociological Research, a Spanish public institution, pro-independence parties are likely to fare less well on 21 December as they look set to lose the absolute majority of seats conquered in 2015.

Junqueras’ pro-independence ERC tied is for the pole position with Ciudadanos, the largest opposition party that does not favour secession.

Two years ago, Puigdemont and Junqueras’ coalition Junts pel Si came first and, together with the support of the radical left party CUP, gathered a majority of seats in the regional chamber.

Together, these three parties in favour of a unilateral break-up with Spain had 48% of the popular vote.

The Catalan government organised a referendum on independence on 1 October, but Spain’s Constitutional Court declared it illegal.

Catalan parliament defies Madrid, declares independence

Catalonia’s parliament declared independence from Spain in a historic vote on Friday (27 October), setting the scene for a showdown with Madrid, which has announced it would strip the breakaway region of its autonomy.

Around 40% of registered Catalan voters supported independence. The results were used by the Catalan parliament to proclaim independence on 27 October.

Spain immediately suspended the autonomy of the region, sacked the regional government and called for snap elections on 21 December.

Timeline

  • 14 December: Decision on dismissed Catalan President Puigdemont's extradition to Spain.
  • 21 December: regional elections in Catalonia.