Spanish court expands probe of Catalan separatist leaders


Madrid (AFP)

Spain's Supreme Court said Friday it has widened its probe into Catalan separatists over their independence drive to include six more politicians, a day after pro-independence parties won a majority in snap polls in Catalonia.

Among those included in Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena's expanded investigation are Marta Rovira, the number two of the separatist ERC party, and Marta Pascal, a top official with the PDeCAT, another key separatist party, according to a court decision seen by AFP.

He also included two former deputies of the far-left separatist CUP party in his probe into the alleged crimes of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds, along with the head of the Catalan association of municipalities for independence, Neus Lloveras, and former Catalan president Artur Mas.

The six have yet to be charged with any crime.

The three separatist parties won 70 seats in the 135-seat Catalan parliament in a regional election on Thursday, dealing a blow to the effort by Spain's central government in Madrid to contain the push for independence by calling the polls.

Rovira, the general secretary of the ERC, was elected as a lawmaker in the assembly on Thursday.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy branded the Catalan separatist effort illegal and deposed the regional government after the Catalan parliament unilaterally declared independence on October 27.

Several senior members of the deposed Catalan government have already been detained pending sedition and rebellion charges, including former vice-president Oriol Junqueras of the ERC.

In total, 17 of the pro-independence candidates who took part in Thursday's election were under investigation. Three of them are in detention.