Catalonia's ex-vice president Oriol Junqueras refused bail by Spanish Supreme Court

Two prominant Catalan lawmakers and two pro-independence activists have been refused bail by Spain's Supreme Court. Six other separatists were released on bail and intend to run in this month's regional elections.

A Spanish Supreme Court judge on Monday upheld the jailing of former Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras and former regional interior minister Joaquim Forn, as well as the leaders of two Catalan grassroots separatist groups.

Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena, however, did allow six other ex-cabinet ministers from the deposed Catalan regional parliament to be released on bail, which was set at €100,000 ($118,000).

Read more: Pro-independence Catalans rally for jailed leaders in Barcelona

The decision comes after the detained group separatist independence lawmakers pledged on Friday to renounce all separatist efforts during a series of closed-door meetings with Llarena in Madrid.


Rich ancient heritage

Catalonia has been settled by the Phoenicians, the Etruscans and the Greeks, who were mainly in the coastal areas of Rosas and Empuries (above). Then came the Romans, who built more settlements and infrastructure. Catalonia remained a part of the Roman Empire until it was conquered by the Visigoths in the fifth century.


Counties and independence

Catalonia was conquered by Arabs in 711 AD. The Frankish king Charlemagne stopped their advance at Tours on the Loire River and, by 759, the north of Catalonia was once again Christian. In 1137, the counties that made up Catalonia entered an alliance with the Crown of Aragon.


Autonomy and the war of succession

In the 13th century, the institutions of Catalan self-administration were created under the banner of the Generalitat de Catalunya. After the unification of the Crown of Aragon with that of Castile in 1476, Aragon was largely able to keep its autonomic institutions. However, the Catalan revolt — from 1640 to 1659 — saw parts of Catalonia ceded to present-day France.


Remembrance of defeat

After the conquest of Barcelona on September 11, 1714, by the Bourbon King Phillip V, Catalan instuitutions were dissolved and self-administration came to an end. Every year, on September 11, Catalans commemorate the end of their right to autonomy.


Federal ideas in wider republic

After the abdication of King Amadeo I of Spain, the first Spanish Republic was declared in February 1873. It lasted barely a year. The supporters of the Republic were split – one group supporting the idea of a centralized republic, the others wanting a federal system. Pictured here is Francisco Pi i Maragall, a supporter of federalism and one of five presidents of the short-lived republic.


Failed attempt

Catalonia sought to establish a new state within the Spanish republic, but this only served to exacerbate the differences between republicans, ultimately dividing and weakening them. In 1874, the monarchy and the House of Bourbon (led by King Alfonso XII, pictured here) took the helm.


Catalan Republic

Between 1923 — with the support of the monarchy, the army and the church — General Primo de Rivera declared a dictatorship. Catalonia became a center of opposition and resistance. After the end of the dictatorship, the politician Francesc Macia (pictured here) successfully pressed for important rights of autonomy for Catalonia.


The end of freedom

In the Second Spanish Republic, Catalan lawmakers worked on the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia. This was approved by the Spanish parliament in 1932. Francesc Macia was elected president of the Generalitat of Catalonia by the Catalan parliament. However, the victory of Franco at the end of the Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939) put an end to all that.


Loss of liberties

The Franco regime ruled with an iron rod. Political parties were banned and the Catalan language and culture were surpressed.


New autonomy by statute

After the first parliamentary elections that followed the end of the Franco dictatorship, the Generalitat of Catalonia was provisionally restored. Under the democratic Spanish constitution of 1978, Catalonia was given a new Statute of Autonomy just a year later.


New and different statute

The new Statute of Autonomy recognized the autonomy of Catalonia and the importance of the Catalan language. In comparison to the 1932 statute, it was enhanced in the fields of culture and education but curtailed when it came to the realm of justice. Pictured here is Jordi Pujol, the long-time head of the government of Catalonia after the dictatorship.


Stronger self-awareness

A desire for independence has grown stronger in recent years. In 2006, Catalonia was given a new statute that broadened the Catalan government's powers. However, it lost these after a complaint by the conservative Popular Party to the Constitutional Court of Spain.


First referendum

A referendum on independence was already envisaged for November 9, 2014. The first question was "Do you want Catalonia to become a state?" In the case of an affirmative answer, the second question was posed: "Do you want this state to be independent?" However, the Constitutional Court suspended the vote.


Clash of the titans

Since January 2016, Carles Puigdemont has been president of the Catalan government. He proceeded with the separatist course of his predecessor Artur Mas and called the new referendum for October 1, 2017. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dismissed this as unconstitutional.

In a statement by the Supreme Court, Llarena said it remained to be seen if their pledges to abide by Spanish law and renounce unilateral independence for Catalonia were "truthful and real." This, he added, raised the "possibility that acts could happen again with serious, immediate and irreparable consequences for the community."

All 10 face possible charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement for their role in Catalonia's contested drive for independence. If found guilty, they face a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in prison.

Of the six that were released, most intend to run in the upcoming regional election on December 21, which was called by Spanish central authorities after they took control of Catalonia's regional parliament. Junqueras had also intended to participate, though doing so would now appear to be impossible.

Audios and videos on the topic

Revisiting National Court decision

Until last week, the lower National Court, which usually takes on major criminal charges, had been in charge of the case and had even already sent to jail Junqueras, his former ministers and the two leaders of the pro-independence ANC and Omnium Cultural associations.

However, in a separate investigation against five Catalan parliamentarians, including former speaker Carme Forcadell, Llarena decided they could remain free on bail as the probe continues. With the Supreme Court judge now having taken on the probe against Junqueras and his group of ministers, there was initially great hope among the pro-independence movement that all would be granted bail.  

Spanien Katalonien Oriol Junqueras und Carles Puigdemont

Oriol Junqueras und Carles Puigdemont were coalition partners in the previous Catalan government.

Puigdemont facing extradition hearings

Also on Monday, Carles Puigdemont, Catalonia's deposed president, was set to appear in a Brussels court for extradition hearings

Related Subjects

Puigdemont and four other separatist leaders fled to Brussels from Spain, where they too face charges of sedition and rebellion for illegally declaring unilateral independence for Catalonia from Spain. The former Catalan leader claims he would not receive a fair trial back home.

A decision on the extradition is expected within eight to 10 days. 

Read more: Puigdemont shows face at Brussels rally

Despite choosing to remain in exile, Puigdemont has said he intends to lead his PDeCAT party in the upcoming regional elections.

It remains unclear how he intends to achieve this, nor how the separatist movement would proceed should the parties win the election.

In September 2015, the two separatist parties — Puigdemont's conservative PDeCAT and Junqueras' left-wing ERC — agreed to form a coalition. Despite their common interests, it appears unlikely that the two parties would join forces again, following the massive political tensions both parties stirred by pushing ahead with the independence referendum. 

dm/ng (AFP, Reuters, dpa)