Ousted Catalan leader flees to Brussels, faces sedition charges

MEHMET SOLMAZ
Barcelona
Published 30.10.2017 19:45
Updated 30.10.2017 19:46
Deposed Catalan leader Puigdemont speaks during a confidence vote session at Catalan parliament, Barcelona.
Deposed Catalan leader Puigdemont speaks during a confidence vote session at Catalan parliament, Barcelona.

Dismissed by Madrid, the ousted Catalan leader fled to Brussels after the Spanish state prosecutor's office announced charges of rebellion, sedition and misappropriation of funds against him and his cabinet

The ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont traveled to Brussels yesterday after Spain's state prosecutor said that he would seek charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement against members of Catalonia's ousted separatist government, pushing the crisis over the region's independence declaration into an uncertain new phase.

Work resumed normally in Catalonia and calm reigned on the streets despite calls for civil disobedience from secessionist politicians, in early signs the direct rule imposed to stop the region's independence bid from Spain was taking hold. Speaking to Daily Sabah on condition of anonymity, some public workers said they do not want to risk losing their jobs as Madrid takes control in the autonomous region.

Although some public sector workers have yet to tell their new bosses whether they will accept the orders, the lack of unrest came as a relief for financial markets, which rose.

Chief Prosecutor Jose Manuel Maza said he would ask judges for preventive measures against the politicians and the governing body of Catalan parliament that allowed a vote to declare independence last week. Although he did not specify if those would include their immediate arrest and detention before trial, Spanish media reported that prosecutors could ask the court for an arrest of Catalan leaders soon.

The rebellion, sedition and embezzlement charges carry maximum sentences of 30, 15 and six years, respectively. It was not immediately clear when judges would rule on the prosecutors' request. Maza did not name any of those facing charges, but they include ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, Vice President Oriol Junqueras and Catalan parliamentary speaker Carme Forcadell.

The announcement came as Catalonia's civil servants returned to work for the first time since Madrid dismissed the separatist regional government and imposed direct control.

Rumors raged about the whereabouts of Puigdemont, as Catalans watched and wondered whether the ousted leaders would defy their firing and face even more possible criminal charges. In addition to the sedition charges, Spain's government has said the fired leaders could be charged with usurping others' functions if they attempt to carry on working.

As staff arrived at the headquarters of the Catalan government in Barcelona, Puigdemont posted a photo on Instagram of a courtyard at the building. Both the Catalan and Spanish national flags waved from the top of the building. The ambiguous Instagram post, accompanied by the words "Good morning" in Catalan and a smiley emoticon, left many guessing whether Puigdemont was in the building. There was no indication of when the photo was taken.

As dozens of journalists, curious onlookers and bemused tourists gathered in the square outside the Gothic government palace in central Barcelona, residents expressed confusion about who is actually in charge of Catalonia.

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