Catalan leader declines to appear before Spanish Senate

Barcelona (AFP) –


Catalonia's separatist leader Carles Puigdemont will not appear before the Spanish Senate in Madrid to state his case for independence, a spokeswoman for the Catalan government said Wednesday.

"He will not go on Thursday or on Friday," the spokeswoman said, after the Senate suggested Puigdemont appear at the upper house before it gives Madrid the green light to take over Catalonia's regional powers.

She did not give a reason but another Catalan government source said it was because Spain's central government "has already announced that it will implement Article 155 (of the Spanish constitution) no matter what."

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy insisted earlier on Wednesday that triggering this never-before-used article devised to rein in rebel regions was "the only possible response" to Puigdemont's independence push.

Rajoy's government plans to use the power to strip Puigdemont and the rest of his executive of all political powers as well as take control of Catalonia's regional police force, public broadcaster and parliament.

This would last for up to six months, until regional elections are called and a new Catalan parliament sworn in.

Spain's Senate will convene Friday to formally approve measures under Article 155.

The Catalan parliament is to meet Thursday to formulate a response to Madrid.