Jailed Catalan vice-president accepts Spanish rule and asks to be freed from prison

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 November, 2017, 3:57am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 November, 2017, 4:00am

Imprisoned former vice-president of Catalonia Oriol Junqueras and three other jailed members of his ERC party will abide by a ruling giving Madrid control over the region, their defence lawyer said on Tuesday.

He asked that he be released from jail, having accepted he no longer holds authority in the Spanish region whose leaders want independence.

Junqueras and seven other former members of the Catalonia regional cabinet were jailed on November 2 pending trial, accused of sedition, rebellion and misappropriation of funds after the local government declared independence from Spain.

In a note presented to the Supreme Court, their lawyer said “my charges … accept, the application of (Article) 155 … but have done so from a position of deep political and judicial discrepancy.”

“They do not give up their political beliefs in strictly peaceful and democratic ways and will work to reach an agreement that puts the decision on the future of Catalonia in the hands of citizens,” it added.

Article 155 in Spain’s constitution allowed the conservative government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to suspend Catalonia’s regional authority on October 27.

That step followed Puigdemont’s declaration of independence, after a referendum on secession that took place on October 1, despite a court ban.

Catalan separatists divided on how to advance independence movement

Puigdemont is now in self-imposed exile in Belgium.

Rajoy dissolved the Catalan parliament and has announced elections to be held there on December 21 in a bid to “restore normality” to the region.

Turnout for the election is expected to reach a record 80 per cent as the deeply divisive issue of the region’s secession prompts participation from both sides.

Less than a quarter of Catalans want to continue with a plan to claim independence from Spain, according to a poll published in El Pais newspaper on Monday.

However, the same poll showed the vote evenly split between pro- and anti-independence parties in the upcoming regional election.