Catalonia crisis: Ex-parliament speaker Forcadell freed on bail

Bail has been granted to a handful of Catalan lawmakers, on rebellion charges, contrasting greatly to the jailing of former members of the government just last week

Carme Forcadell (Photo: La Vanguardia)
Carme Forcadell (Photo: La Vanguardia)

Judge Pablo Llarena, who sits on Spain’s Supreme Court granted bail to a handful of Catalan lawmakers awaiting trial on rebellion charges on Thursday.

This move serves as a stark contrast to the jailing of former members of the Catalan government last week.

Bail was set of €150,000, for Carme Forcadell, who as speaker of the Catalan parliament, read out Catalonia’s declaration of independence from Spain on 27 October, shortly before it was approved by separatist lawmakers.

Four other Catalan lawmakers were granted bail  €25,000, while a sixth was freed on Thursday, without bail.

Llarena said that the lawmakers were allowed to post bail because they had either agreed to leave politics or pledged to resume their political activities “within the constitutional framework”.

After his ruling, Forcadell was taken to a Madrid jail around midnight on Thursday, but her lawyer told reports that she was likely to post bail on Friday.

Just last month, Spain’s attorney general demanded that 20 Catalan politicians are prosecuted, on charges ranging from sedition to rebellion to the misuse of public funds, whilst organising the independence referendum, which took place on 1 October. The referendum was declared to be illegal by the Spanish courts as well as the government.

The legal proceedings against the main separatist politicians have been split between two courts because Forcadell and some of the other Catalan lawmakers continue to benefit from parliamentary immunity, which means that they must be brought before the Supreme Court rather than the National Court.

Last week, however, a judge from the National Court ordered prison, without bail, for eight former members of the Catalan government. The judge only granted bail to one other politician, because he had resigned from the Catalan cabinet a day before the region’s declaration of independence.

The jailing of these politicians has become one of the main campaign issues before new regional elections, scheduled for 21 December by Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy.

His government took administrative control of Catalonia, using emergency constitutional powers, shortly after separatist lawmakers voted for independence. Rajoy ousted the entire regional government and dissolved its parliament.

As court proceedings are on-going in Madrid, Carles Puigdemont, former leader of Catalonia, remains in Brussels, with four members of his cabinet, awaiting a decision from a Belgian judge, who is reviewing an international arrest warrant issued by Spanish authorities.

Carles Puigdemont (Photo: Prensa Latina)
Carles Puigdemont (Photo: Prensa Latina)

To justify not appearing in court in Madrid, Puigdemont claimed that Spain’s judiciary cannot guarantee a fair trial. He added that the fact that Forcadell was spending the night in jail “for allowing the democratic debate”.

In his ruling, Llarena ordered Forcadell to remain in Spain, after posting bail. Spain’s public prosecutor wants her to be sentenced for rebellion, along with the leader of the Catalan government.

She reportedly played a “major part” in the different stages of Catalonia’s push towards secession, wrote Llarena on Thursday, initially as leader of one of the largest citizens’ associations, and then as speaker of the parliament.

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