The ousted president of Catalonia’s pro-independence government could face arrest on Monday and up to 30 years in prison if found guilty of “rebellion.”
Carles Puigdemont was deprived of power following the Spanish region’s declaration of independence Friday, after a month of escalating tensions with the national government in Madrid.
Spain’s government has assumed direct control of the wealthy northeastern region and has terminated the executive roles of Puigdemont and his cabinet, calling a snap election for December 21. Puigdemont and other pro-independence officials remained defiant, saying that they did not recognize Spain’s authority and said only the people of Catalonia could dismiss them.
If Puigdemont and his colleagues try to go to work on Monday, they face possible arrest, however. Spain’s Attorney General Jose Manuel Maza said last week that he would be calling on the local police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, to detain Puigdemont and that crime of rebellion was punishable by 30 years in prison. He said that if local police did not carry out the order, national police would do so.
Belgium responded to the move saying it could grant Puigdemont political asylum with the country’s migration minister questioning to what extent Puigdemont would get a fair trial.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of protesters filled the streets of Barcelona Sunday, in one of the largest pro-unity marches since the crisis began on October 1 following a symbolic referendum on independence which was deemed illegal by the Spanish government.
Spain’s Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis told the AP news agency that Puigdemont could “theoretically” run in the December election “if he is not put in jail at that time.” For his part, Puigdemont has made no suggestion that he will leave the country.
It’s uncertain how far Spain will go in punishing the popular leader, however, with the pro-separatist movement still commanding considerable support. A Metroscopia poll for Spain’s El Pais newspaper Sunday suggested that 52 percent of Catalans were in favor of the dissolution of the regional parliament and holding new elections, compared to 43 percent who were against such a move.
Toni Timoner, U.K. spokesman for Spain’s ruling Partido Popular, told CNBC Monday that the Spanish government had public support.
“Since there was the suspension of the government of Catalonia, everything indicates the return to normalcy over the next few days. On top of that we had the demonstrations yesterday which show there is an ample majority for the steps that the government of Spain is taking,” he said.
Catalan leader could face arrest and 30 years in prison for 'rebellion'