Carles Puigdemont. Picture: REUTERS
Carles Puigdemont. Picture: REUTERS

Barcelona — Catalan’s axed separatist leader, Carles Puigdemont faces possible "sedition" and "rebellion" charges, along with his deputy, Oriol Junqueras, 12 other former ministers and six members of the regional parliament.

Summoned for questioning on Thursday before the National Court in Madrid, which deals with major criminal cases, only nine former government members turned up.

Puigdemont and four deposed ministers remained holed up in Belgium. Spanish authorities could issue an international warrant for their arrest.

The speaker of the dissolved Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell, and five of her deputies also showed up for questioning in Madrid, but they went to the Supreme Court, which deals with cases involving parliamentarians. Their hearing was adjourned until November 9.

Sedition carries a potential jail sentence of up to 15 years and the charge of rebellion twice that. Both judges are probing whether these offences were committed during the secession process that began late in 2015 and culminated in the regional parliament declaring independence last Friday.

Following the declaration, the central government dismissed Catalonia’s leaders, imposed direct rule and called Catalan elections for December 21.

Sedition is defined as "rising up publicly and in turbulent fashion" to "prevent by force or illegally" the law from being applied or authorities from implementing administrative and legal decisions.

The leaders of two grassroots Catalan independence groups, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, have been in preventive custody since October 16 on that charge. It stems from a demonstration in Barcelona in September in which Spanish police were trapped inside a Catalan government office for hours as protesters gathered outside.

Three police vehicles were vandalised and Cuixart and Sanchez allegedly stood on a police car calling for "permanent mobilisation" against the Spanish government.

Amnesty International has joined calls for their release, branding the charges "excessive". Tens of thousands of people held a candle-lit rally for them in the Catalan capital, Barcelona, the day after they were jailed.

Rebellion is defined as "rising up in a violent and public manner," to, among other things, "breach, suspend or change the constitution" or "declare independence for part of the [Spanish] territory".

Jail sentences for those found guilty of the offence of rebellion range from five to 30 years.

Military officers behind a 1981 attempted coup in Spain were found guilty of rebellion.

Spain’s chief public prosecutor, Jose Manuel Maza, has accused the deposed Catalan leaders of "encouraging an active insurrection movement through their proclamations and their systematic disobedience of the constitutional court".

AFP

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