Prosecuted and divided: the state of Catalonia's separatist leaders


Madrid (AFP)

Five months after their failed secession attempt, Catalonia's separatist leaders are in exile, in jail or charged and so divided that the wealthy Spanish region appears headed for fresh elections.

Spanish Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena said Friday that 25 Catalan separatist leaders would be prosecuted over the region's separatist push, which culminated with the Catalan parliament declaring independence on October 25.

Thirteen -- including former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont who was detained in Germany on Sunday -- have been charged with rebellion, which carries a possible jail term of 30 years.

Five more were charged only with disobedience and misuse of public funds to finance the separatist push.

- Detained -

Nine of the Catalan leaders facing trial for rebellion are being held at a jail near Madrid. Among them, the former Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras and the former speaker of the Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell.

A further nine, who also stayed in Spain, remain free while awaiting trial, most without bail conditions.

- Awaiting extradition -

A German court will decide whether to hand Puigdemont over to Spanish authorities to face trial for "rebellion and misuse of public funds".

Three former members of his government who followed him to Brussels after the Catalan parliament declared independence -- Meritxell Serret, Toni Comin and Lluis Puig i Gordi -- are still in Belgium.

The first two have made themselves available to the courts, their Belgian lawyer Michele Hirsch told AFP.

A fourth member of Puigdemont's government, Clara Ponsati, left Belgium for Scotland and is expected to surrender to the British authorities so they can decide whether or not to extradite her to Spain.

- On the run -

Two other Catalan separatist leaders ignored a summons to appear before Spanish courts and have fled the country.

The secretary general of the leftist ERC party, Marta Rovira, announced Friday that she had left Spain and is reportedly in Switzerland.

Anna Gabriel, a former lawmaker with the far-left separatist CUP party fled to Switzerland at the end of February. She only faces trial for disobedience and is the only Catalan leader in exile who is not the target of an international arrest warrant issued by Spain.

- Divided -

While Catalan's three separatist parties maintained their absolute majority in the Catalan parliament -- 70 seats out of 135 -- during a snap election on December 21, they have been unable to elect a president and form a government.

The far-left CUP, whose four seats in the Catalan parliament give it a kingmaker role in the separatist camp, on Thursday blocked the candidacy of Jordi Turull because they felt his programme for separatism was not radical enough.

Turull, a former Catalan government spokesman, was remanded in custody the following day.

The PDeCat party is deeply divided between those who want to defy the Spanish state and those who feel like the priority should be to form a government and lower tensions in the region.

The leftist ERC, whose leader is in jail and his deputy is in exile, wants to avoid a new confrontation with the Spanish state which would worsen the situation of the detained separatist leaders.

Fresh regional elections will be triggered if a new leader is not elected by the Catalan parliament by May 22.