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Saturday November 25th, 2017 6:11AM

Catalan lawmakers to testify in separatist rebellion probe

By The Associated Press

MADRID (AP) — Six Catalan lawmakers were due to testify Thursday before a Spanish judge over claims that they ignored Constitutional Court orders and allowed an independence vote in Catalonia's regional parliament.

The parliament's speaker, Carme Forcadell, and five other members of its governing body face possible charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement. Under Spanish law, the crimes are punishable with up to 30 years of imprisonment.

Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena is set to decide after questioning them if any preventive measures — including keeping them in custody — are to be applied while the investigation continues.

The Oct. 27 independence declaration in the Catalan parliament was boycotted by most opposition lawmakers but held despite previous court rulings. It was passed by 70 votes to 10 in the 135-seat legislative body.

Central authorities took the unprecedented step of seizing control of the wealthy northeastern region shortly after, the first time in four decades of democratic rule that one of Spain's 17 regions had temporarily lost its self-government.

Spain removed the regional government, dissolved the parliament and called a new regional election for Dec. 21.

Former Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont and four of his dismissed Cabinet members fled to Brussels, where they are fighting Spanish arrest and extradition orders.

They are also trying to rally European support for their cause. Although no country has publicly sided with them so far, their presence in the Belgian capital is sowing divisions among politicians.

Eight members of the now-dismissed Catalan Cabinet and two activists have already been sent to jail as the country's National Court studies possible charges of rebellion and sedition against them. One further official was released on bail, but remains a suspect in the probe.

Forcadell remains the parliament's president, heading a commission of two dozen lawmakers during the transitional period to next month's polls.

The Supreme Court judge delayed the questioning for more than a week after the lawmakers' attorneys argued that they weren't given enough time to prepare the defense.

Catalonia, with 7.5 million people, represents a fifth of Spain's gross domestic product. Polls show its people roughly evenly divided over independence.

The regional separatist authorities claimed a banned Oct. 1 secession referendum gave them a mandate to declare independence.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP World News
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