Catalan crisis: Carles Puigdemont ‘worsened situation’ for ministers


Catalan crisis: Carles Puigdemont 'worsened situation' for ministers

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Media captionCarles Puigdemont 'can't come back a free man'

A lawyer whose firm represents two imprisoned former Catalan ministers says their situation was made worse by the self-imposed exile of deposed Catalan President Carles Puigdemont.

Pau Molins told the BBC he believes Mr Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium, should have stayed in Spain to fight his case.

He says it meant the justice system was able to justify jailing the ministers.

Eight sacked members of the Catalan government are being detained over an illegal declaration of independence.

They, alongside Mr Puigdemont, are being investigated for alleged rebellion and sedition following a banned independence referendum on 1 October, in defiance of the central authorities in Madrid.

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Mr Molins told the BBC on Friday that legally, Mr Puigdemont's situation will be worse the longer he stays in Belgium and continues to avoid the allegations against him.

Last week, a Spanish judge issued an EU arrest warrant for him and four of his allies. Mr Puigdemont later handed himself in to Belgian police. He has been released on bail until a judge decides whether to execute the warrant or not.

Mr Molins, one of Spain's most senior criminal lawyers, is representing the sacked Catalan government spokesman, Jordi Turull, and ex-Sustainability Minister Josep Rull.

He described their situation as "the same of any prisoner facing criminal charges, with family access reduced to a few hours once a week". But he says the men were "humiliated" by the police as they drove them to prison from court.

His comments come the same day the former speaker of Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell, was released on bail, following a night in prison in Madrid where she faces similar charges.

Carme Forcadell's supporters paid the €150,000 (£132,000) bail for her release, while four other Catalan lawmakers were granted bail of €25,000.

It was exactly two weeks ago when separatist ministers voted for independence in the Catalan parliament, and subsequently illegally declared the region, a new state.

The Spanish government has since taken control of the region's government, dissolved parliament and called a snap election for 21 December.

Catalan crisis: Timeline of key events

  • 1 October: Catalan government goes ahead with an independence referendum, despite it being suspended by Spain's constitutional court. Violence breaks out as police try to stop the vote. Catalan authorities say 90% backed independence while turnout was 43%
  • 10 October: Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and other regional leaders sign a declaration of independence but say they are suspending its implementation. Madrid immediately dismisses the move
  • 16 October: Spain detains the leaders of two powerful pro-independence groups, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, pending an investigation
  • 21 October: Spain PM Rajoy outlines plans to take control of the separatist region under Article 155 of the constitution as pleas for Mr Puigdemont to abandon the breakaway bid are ignored
  • 27 October: Catalan MPs approve a motion by 70 votes to 10 to declare an independent republic
  • 28 October: Spanish PM dissolves the Catalan parliament, calls snap regional elections for 21 December and sacks Catalan leaders
  • 30 October: Spain's chief prosecutor seeks charges of rebellion sedition and misuse of public funds against Mr Puigdemont and 13 other sacked Catalan politicians. Mr Puigdemont and some of his ministers travel to Belgium
  • 2 November: Nine sacked ministers attend the high court in Madrid and eight are remanded in custody
  • 3 November: Spain judge issues EU arrest warrant for Mr Puigdemont and four allies. Mr Puigdemont later hands himself in to Belgian police but is released on bail while a judge decides whether to execute the warrant

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