Spain’s Supreme Court has set bail of €60,000 for a Catalan politician under investigation for the illegal secession attempt of late October.
Marta Rovira, the secretary general of the pro-independence party Catalan Republican Left (ERC), answered questions for two hours in connection with an ongoing probe into rebellion, secession and misuse of public funds against former officials of the Catalan government. The entire governing team was fired by central authorities in Madrid following the unilateral independence declaration, and the region has been under central control since then.
We have come here to defend Catalan citizens’ right to vote and show their opinion in a state ruled by law
Marta Rovira, ERC
Judge Pablo Llanera is planning to question five Catalan ex-officials this week in connection with the case. All of them are believed to have been members of a strategic committee described in Enfocats, a document that was seized during a police raid and which the judge views as a roadmap for the secession process. This committee was meant to coordinate a hypothetical transitional government in Catalonia.
At the Monday hearing, Rovira admitted that she had attended meetings where decisions were made towards achieving unilateral independence, and plans drafted for the illegal referendum that took place on October 1.
But both she and Marta Pascal, coordinator general of the European Democratic Party of Catalonia (PDeCAT), who also appeared in court on Monday, described the independence declaration as “a political manifestation with no legal effects.” Both politicians added that they were fully aware that the referendum had no legal backing.
Pascal was let go without any precautionary measures, but the judge set bail of €60,000 for Rovira because he sees a risk of reoffending.
Anna Gabriel is the best-known face of the far-left CUP alliance, which supports anti-capitalism, Catalan independence and an exit from the euro zone. She has made numerous public appearances to defend “the need to disobey” the Spanish state.
Gabriel addressed supporters in Catalonia this past Sunday through a recorded message that was played in Reus (Tarragona) at a meeting of Endavant, a far-left group that is part of the CUP alliance. At the gathering, Gabriel was heard saying that “political persecution of pro-independence activists is taking on new forms and reaching into new spaces.”
“Of all the people involved in the fight, there are those whose support can never be doubted. You are those people: people who are determined, convinced, incorruptible, generous,” said Gabriel in her address. “That is why I am proud to be a member of Endavant.”
Following the hearings, Rovira spoke to the media: “We have come here to defend Catalan citizens’ right to vote and show their opinion in a state ruled by law.” Pascal declined to make any comments.
On Tuesday, the judge will hear Artur Mas, a former Catalan premier who has already been barred from holding public office for his role in organizing an earlier independence consultation on November 9, 2014.
The judge considers there is preliminary evidence to suggest that these and other Catalan politicians under investigation had a “principal and leading participation” in the rebellion against Spanish laws, and that they “contributed the required political support.”
On Wednesday, the court is due to hear Anna Gabriel, a high-profile independence figure who was a deputy in the Catalan parliament for the far-left, anti-capitalist CUP alliance.
But the newspaper El Periódico has revealed that Gabriel has been in Switzerland for several weeks, preparing her defense strategy. She has reportedly contacted a lawyer named Olivier Peter who specializes in extradition requests and who has defended ETA collaborators in the past.
In a release, CUP confirmed that Gabriel will not reveal her defense strategy until Tuesday, and said she is in Geneva in the company of other members of a group that was set up to campaign against the Supreme Court investigation. The statement said it is “absolutely essential” to give their movement “an international dimension” and added that they have contacted lawyers and international institutions with ties to “the defense of civil and political rights” in order to craft a defense strategy and to “consolidate our political position.”
The strategy is reminiscent of ousted Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont’s own decision to campaign from Brussels in a bid to drum up international support for the independence cause. Puigdemont fled to Belgium after getting removed by the central government, and ran a long-distance campaign in the Catalan election of December 21, which gave a majority to separatist parties. His attempt to get remotely reinstated without returning to Spain – where he faces arrest after skipping his own court hearing last year – has created a political impasse in Catalonia, which faces the possibility of fresh elections if a new government leader is not named soon.