Catalan ex-vice president Oriol Junqueras must stay in jail

Spain's Supreme Court has ruled Oriol Junqueras will continue to be held in prison, after more than two months behind bars. The decision means he will probably not be able to be sworn into the new Catalan parliament.

Spain's Supreme Court on Friday ordered that former Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras must remain in custody while authorities investigate his role in the Spain region's independence movement.

In a written ruling, the judges said there was a risk that Junqueras would again commit an offense if he were released as there was no evidence to show he had abandoned "the path followed so far."

Read more: Opinion: Spain and Catalonia have a communication problem

The separatist leader has already been held in prison for more than two months on allegations of rebellion, sedition, and misuse of public funds, following an illegal referendum on secession from Spain on October 1.

The court's decision will likely prevent Junqueras from being sworn in at the opening session of the new Catalan parliament on January 17 and complicates the separatist parties' search for a leader who is neither jailed or abroad.

Catalonia declares independence from Spain

The declaration

As the world watched, Catalonia's parliament voted 70 to 10 for the region to declare its independence from Spain. "Our legitimate parliament has taken a very important step. This is the people's mandate," Puigdemont said after the decision. Dozens of opposition lawmakers from the Socialist Party, Citizens Party and Popular Party had walked out of the parliament chamber to boycott the vote.

Catalonia declares independence from Spain

The despair

Within an hour of the Catalan vote, the Spanish Senate in Madrid passed a bill to trigger Article 155 of the Spanish constitution. The measure will allow the central government to suspend Catalonia's autonomy. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he would sack Catalonia’s government and set new regional elections for December 21.

Catalonia declares independence from Spain

The dismissal

European leaders were quick to condemn the independence declaration. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the Union "doesn't need any more cracks," while EU Council President Donald Tusk said Madrid "remains our only interlocutor." Leaders in Germany, France, Italy and the UK voiced their support for Madrid. The US also chimed in, saying "Catalonia is an integral part of Spain."

Catalonia declares independence from Spain

The dispute

Barcelona and Madrid had been in a standoff since 93 percent of voters opted for Catalan independence in an October 1 referendum marred by police violence. Spain said the poll was illegal and stressed the low voter turnout of 43 percent. It subsequently threatened to suspend the region's autonomy if Catalan leaders did not stop their drive for independence.

Catalonia declares independence from Spain

The defiance

Many had expected tensions to ease on October 26 when Catalan President Carles Puigdemont was expected to call snap elections to bow to a key Spanish government demand. But Puigdemont refused, saying that he did not have enough "guarantees" from Madrid. Instead, he called on the Catalan parliament to decide on how to respond to Spain's threat to suspend the region's autonomy.

Catalonia declares independence from Spain

The dream

Tens of thousands of pro-independence protesters had taken to the streets of Barcelona ahead of the independence declaration to demand the region's secession and the release of two leaders of pro-independence organizations, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez. Independence has divided Catalonia. Many who supported continued unity with Spain refused to vote in the October 1 referendum.

Catalonia declares independence from Spain

The delight

The pro-independence crowds outside the Catalan parliament immediately rejoiced after hearing the independence declaration. Many people were draped in the "Estelada" flag associated with Catalan independence. Some reportedly called for the Spanish flag to be removed from the Catalan government palace as regional lawmakers arrived from the parliament. (Author: Alexander Pearson)

The December 21 election saw the separatists gain a slim majority, in a vote that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had hoped would quash the Catalan independence movement.

Junqueras's Esquerra Republicana (Republican Left) party emerged from the election as the second largest separatist group, a few seats behind former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont's Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) party.

Read more: Catalan crisis: Spain rejects Catalonia's 'tacit' declaration of independence

Market-friendly unionist party Ciudadanos (Citizens) won the most seats but other unionist parties did not secure enough votes to form a majority.

Puigdemont remains in self-imposed exile in Brussels, though he has said he would return to Catalonia if the Spanish government gave him certain "guarantees," likely a promise not to arrest him.

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Rajoy fired both Junqueras and Puigdemont and four other cabinet members when he imposed direct control over Catalonia, after its separatist-controlled government declared independence following the October 1 referendum.

Read more: Catalan independence supporters in Brussels demand EU attention

While around 90 percent of participants voted for independence, the voter turnout was only 43 percent. In the Catalan parliamentary vote, which passed 70 to 10, dozens of opposition lawmakers walked out, boycotting the vote.

After the Supreme Court's ruling, Puigdemont tweeted: "There is a conflict between Catalonia and Spain that must be resolved. We have always opted for peace and dialogue."

Read more: Catalonia separatist groups win absolute majority

Those in jail or on the run have the option of ceding their seats to others in their parties to ensure they keep a majority when parliament restarts on January 17.

Republicn Left and Together for Catalonia, along with a smaller separatist party, have not yet agreed on a coalition.

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DW News | 07.12.2017

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