Spanish Supreme Court judge charged former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and 12 former members of his cabinet with rebellion for pro-independence actions that culminated in Catalonia's independence referendum on Oct. 1, 2017. The charges announced Friday and a punishable with up to 30 years in prison.
Pro-independence sentiments are widespread in Catalonia and have grown after Madrid brutally repressed Catalonians who went to the polls to cast their vote last year. The election resulted in Catalonia’s declaration of independence. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy responded by removing Puigdemont and calling for a snap election, which pro-independence parties and politicians won.
In total 25 Catalans will be tried for rebellion, embezzlement or disobedience, including Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras, former Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell, Jordi Turull, Puigdemont’s former chief of staff and third candidate to for Catalonia’s presidency, pro-independence activists Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, and Catalan Republican Left party (ERC) leader Marta Rovira, who on Friday announced she was fleeing Spain.
Six other Catalan politicians, including ousted president Puigdemont, fled Spain last year.
Judge Pablo Llarena also set a US$ 2.6 million bail for former members of the Catalan government. The amount matches the investment made to carry out the referendum.
Furthermore, seven members of Catalonia’s Parliament have been charged with disobedience, which doesn’t carry a prison sentence but bars them from political office.
Rebellion charges are controversial because the crime requires the use of violence; the Catalan referendum was a peaceful civic action. The Spanish State Attorney’s office had argued violence was exercised by pro-independence activists and politicians on Sept. 20, 2017, when they surrounded several Catalan government buildings to prevent the Spanish Civil Guard from entering.
According to Llarena, Catalan politicians and civil society groups “colluded” for six years to declare Catalonia’s independence, violating Spain’s legal order in “an attack on the constitutional State.”
The announcement of the charges followed Thursday’s investiture debate in the Catalan Parliament, in which Turull, who is also charged with rebellion, lost his first attempt to be elected after hardline pro-independence party Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) withdrew their support criticizing failure to explicitly guaranteeing he would continue to support the construction of an independent republic.