For the fourth time in three months, the Catalan parliament had scheduled an investiture debate to vote in a new premier following the December 21 elections. But the Friday session has now been postponed after the separatist majority’s candidate, who is being held in pre-trial custody, was today denied permission to attend the vote.
Clara Ponsatí, a former Catalan government official who fled to Scotland following the failed independence push, will face a full hearing into an extradition request by Spain in late July.
The official in charge of the case, Sheriff Nigel Ross, oversaw a preliminary hearing on Thursday and said that the case involves a complex examination of evidence and overlaps with a foreign jurisdiction.
The two-week hearing will begin on July 30, with two preliminary hearings scheduled for May 15 and July 5.
Ponsatí’s lawyer, Aamer Anwar, told reporters that his client’s rights are not guaranteed in Spain. “She is accused of orchestrating violence yet the warrant fails to specify in over 19 pages a single act of violence or incitement attributable to her.”
Ponsatí, 61, first fled to Brussels, then moved to Scotland to take up her earlier post as professor at the University of Saint Andrew’s.
Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena, in charge of the main investigation into accusations of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds by Catalan separatist leaders, also denied Jordi Sànchez’s request to participate in the debate via video link.
Sànchez, the former head of a large pro-independence association called ANC, has been in pre-trial custody in Soto del Real (Madrid) since October, accused of encouraging crowds to stage violent street protests on September 20 to hinder a police raid against organizers of the illegal referendum of October 1.
In his decision to reject Sànchez’s petition for temporary release, Judge Llarena wrote that a Sànchez administration could lean toward “the breakup of the constitutional order,” and that this endeavor “could still be underway even if it has been put on hold, and may be awaiting new protagonists.”
This is the second time that Sànchez’s name has been put forward by separatist parties, who won a narrow majority in the snap election called by Madrid after the latter ousted the previous Catalan government and suspended autonomous powers as a result of the unilateral independence declaration of late October.
The first nominee was ousted premier Carles Puigdemont, who could not be remotely appointed from Belgium, where he had fled to avoid legal action by the Spanish courts. The second was Sànchez, who was denied permission to attend the investiture session of March 12. A third candidate, Jordi Turull, submitted to the vote on March 22 but did not receive enough support for an absolute majority. He was also placed in custody in connection with the rebellion probe before a second vote could be held.
Investigators believe CDR groups are working to take the secessionist process to the street through violent acts
While PM Mariano Rajoy has publicly expressed a desire to see a “normal premier” in Catalonia, i.e. one who “is not caught up in judicial procedures, who can attend his own investiture debate, and who can actually take office and govern,” separatists have so far nominated candidates who are all under court investigation. Madrid has warned that the emergency takeover of Catalan affairs will remain in place as long as no valid government emerges.
Meanwhile, another Spanish court has scaled down the charges against an activist who was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly leading a grassroots effort to impose a Catalan republic through acts of sabotage and civil disobedience.
Judge Diego de Egea of the Audiencia Nacional, Spain’s High Court, reduced the prosecutors’ charges of rebellion and terrorism against Tamara Carrasco, a member of the Committees for the Defense of the Republic (CDR), and instead considered her actions to constitute a public order crime, punishable with six months to three years in prison. Carrasco, 34, was released but ordered to report to the local courthouse once a week. Prosecutors had sought unconditional prison for her.
The public prosecution had argued that Carrasco was “part of a reduced leadership team that determined the guidelines and mobilization instructions for these groups, through rebellious acts aimed at normalizing disobedience and externalizing the confrontation with the [Spanish] state.”
Investigators believe that the CDR groups are working to take the secessionist process to the street through violent acts. Members of these committees recently blocked major roads and stormed toll booths to raise the barriers and let drivers through for free. These and other separatist groups such as Arran are also behind threats issued against Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena, who is in charge of the main investigation into the secession attempt. Besides targeting judges, these groups have been conducting a harassment campaign against Catalan political parties and organizations that support unity with Spain.
English version by Susana Urra.