Catalan politicians to be quizzed in Spain rebellion case

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Catalan politicians to be quizzed in Spain rebellion case
Catalan politicians to be quizzed in Spain rebellion case

MADRID (AP) – Ousted Catalan government members and lawmakers began arriving at two Spanish courts in Madrid on Thursday to face possible charges of rebellion for having declared the region’s independence.

Twenty regional politicians, including sacked regional government president Carles Puigdemont, were called to appear after the chief prosecutor demanded they be charged with rebellion, sedition and embezzlement following the Catalan parliament’s declaration of secession Oct. 27.

Spain took the unprecedented step of seizing control of Catalonia following the declaration and later sacked the cabinet, dissolved the regional Parliament and called fresh regional elections for Dec. 21.

Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium with some of his ex-Cabinet members, will remain in Belgium and not appear, according to his lawyer, which could trigger a warrant for his arrest and an extradition petition.

The group summoned includes Puigdemont’s 13-member former Cabinet and six parliamentary board members.

Puigdemont’s No. 2, Oriol Junqueras, was the first to arrive at the National Court. He went in accompanied by lawyers, passing by dozens of journalists, declining to answer questions.

The crimes being probed are punishable by up to 30 years in prison under Spanish law.

Puigdemont said he and several of his former ministers went to Brussels some days ago for “freedom and safety.” Four of the ex-ministers remained in Brussels with him while the others returned and were to be appearing in court.

Besides the ex-Cabinet members, six regional parliament members are to appear before the Supreme Court in a parallel probe. They include former Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell, one of the leading figures of the pro-independence movement in Catalonia for many years, who arrived at the court shortly after 9 a.m. (0800 GMT).

About two dozen politicians and elected officials from Catalan separatist parties gathered at the gates of the Supreme Court in a show of support for them.

Assumpcio Lailla, a former lawmaker with Catalonia’s Democrats party, said she had traveled to Madrid joining around 100 other politicians and elected officials to show support to those investigated in the rebellion probe.

“This is an unjust situation in which they are being investigated for facilitating democracy,” she said. “I don’t understand how Europe can look away from democracy.”

The supporters greeted some of the lawmakers that are being questioned Tuesday at the Supreme Court cheering and shouting: “Freedom, Freedom” and “we are not afraid.”

Across the street, half a dozen protesters with Spanish flags were stopped by police. They shouted at the Catalan politicians, “cowards” and “to jail, to jail.”

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A previous version of this story has been corrected to show that the first name of the ex-lawmaker from the Democrats party is Assumpcio, not Assumptio.

Fired Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras, center, arrives at the national court in Madrid, Spain, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. Some of the 14-member ousted Catalan cabinet were expected to appear before a judge in Madrid on Thursday for questioning as part of a rebellion probe for pushing ahead with a declaration of independence from Spain. (AP Photo/Paul White)
Fired Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras arrives at the national court in Madrid, Spain, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. Some of the 14-member ousted Catalan cabinet were expected to appear before a judge in Madrid on Thursday for questioning as part of a rebellion probe for pushing ahead with a declaration of independence from Spain. (AP Photo/Paul White)
Fired Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras, right, arrives at the national court in Madrid, Spain, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. Some of the 14-member ousted Catalan cabinet were expected to appear before a judge in Madrid on Thursday for questioning as part of a rebellion probe for pushing ahead with a declaration of independence from Spain. (AP Photo/Paul White)
Police officers check a manhole outside the national court in Madrid, Spain, early morning Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. Some of the 14-member ousted Catalan cabinet were expected to appear before a judge in Madrid on Thursday for questioning as part of a rebellion probe for pushing ahead with a declaration of independence from Spain. (AP Photo/Paul White)
Fired Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras, right, arrives at the national court in Madrid, Spain, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. Some of the 14-member ousted Catalan cabinet were expected to appear before a judge in Madrid on Thursday for questioning as part of a rebellion probe for pushing ahead with a declaration of independence from Spain. (AP Photo/Paul White)
Spanish police vans arrive at the national court in Madrid, Spain, early morning Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. Some of the 14-member ousted Catalan cabinet were expected to appear before a judge in Madrid on Thursday for questioning as part of a rebellion probe for pushing ahead with a declaration of independence from Spain. (AP Photo/Paul White)
Ex-speaker of the Catalonia parliament Carme Forcadell arrives at the Spain’s Supreme Court in Madrid, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. Ousted Catalan government members and lawmakers began arriving at two Spanish courts in Madrid on Thursday to face possible charges of rebellion for having declared the region’s independence. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Ex-speaker of the Catalonia parliament Carme Forcadell arrives at the Spain’s Supreme Court in Madrid, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. Ousted Catalan government members and lawmakers began arriving at two Spanish courts in Madrid on Thursday to face possible charges of rebellion for having declared the region’s independence. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Fired Catalan Cabinet members Raul Romeva, Joaquim Forn and Carles Mundo, from right to left, arrive at the national court in Madrid, Spain, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. Some of the 14-member ousted Catalan cabinet were expected to appear before a judge in Madrid on Thursday for questioning as part of a rebellion probe for pushing ahead with a declaration of independence from Spain. (AP Photo/Paul White)
A man holds up a Spanish flag outside the national court in Madrid, Spain, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. Ousted Catalan government members and lawmakers began arriving at two Spanish courts in Madrid on Thursday to face possible charges of rebellion for having declared the region’s independence. (AP Photo/Paul White)
Fired Catalan Cabinet members arrive at the national court in Madrid, Spain, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. From left to right are, Joaquim Forn, Raul Romeva, Carles Mundo and Jordi Turull. Some of the 14-member ousted Catalan cabinet were expected to appear before a judge in Madrid on Thursday for questioning as part of a rebellion probe for pushing ahead with a declaration of independence from Spain. (AP Photo/Paul White)
Fired Catalan Cabinet members arrive at the national court in Madrid, Spain, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. From left to right are, Joaquim Forn, Dolors Bassa i Coll, Raul Romeva, Carles Mundo, Jordi Turull, Meritxell Borras and Josep Rull. Some of the 14-member ousted Catalan cabinet were expected to appear before a judge in Madrid on Thursday for questioning as part of a rebellion probe for pushing ahead with a declaration of independence from Spain. (AP Photo/Paul White)
Former Catalan Cabinet member Santiago Vila arrives at the national court in Madrid, Spain, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. Some of the 14-member ousted Catalan cabinet were expected to appear before a judge in Madrid on Thursday for questioning as part of a rebellion probe for pushing ahead with a declaration of independence from Spain. (AP Photo/Paul White)
Ex-speaker of the Catalonia parliament Carme Forcadell arrives at the Spain’s Supreme Court in Madrid, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. Ousted Catalan government members and lawmakers began arriving at two Spanish courts in Madrid on Thursday to face possible charges of rebellion for having declared the region’s independence. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
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