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Thursday January 18th, 2018 6:48PM

Jailed Catalan separatists pledge to eschew unilateral moves

By The Associated Press
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MADRID (AP) — Three backers of Catalonia's independence sought Thursday to get released from jail for their role in the region's push to break from Spain, which triggered the country's worst political crisis in decades.

Former Catalan interior minister, Joaquim Forn, Jordi Sanchez, a member of pro-independence civic group National Catalan Assembly, and Catalan activist Jordi Cuixart made their cases to a Spain Supreme Court judge.

A ruling from Judge Pablo LLarena is not expected Thursday.

Forn was one of several regional ministers jailed on provisional charges of rebellion after the regional parliament unilaterally — and unsuccessfully — declared Catalonia an independent republic Oct. 27.

The action prompted the Spanish government in Madrid to remove the region's government from office, dissolve the parliament and call a fresh election that was held last month.

Sanchez and Forn were elected on separatist party tickets, but the Spanish government still is running Catalonia.

Sanchez and Cuixart had been jailed earlier on provisional sedition charges related to preparations for an Oct. 1 independence referendum, which Spain's Constitutional Court had suspended.

All three supporters of Catalan independence told the judge they would oppose further unilateral moves to secede and act in accordance with Spanish law, according to lawyers familiar with the proceedings.

The lawyers requested anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss what was said during the closed-door hearings.

The lawyers said Sanchez acknowledged that the Oct. 1 referendum was not legally valid. Forn, who as interior minister oversaw Catalonia's security and its regional police, said he would not accept the post again, if he were asked to.

Developments surrounding Catalonia have gripped Spain for months, and the tumult is showing no sign of letting up before the new parliament's first session on Wednesday.

A major question mark hangs over whether former regional President Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium to avoid arrest for his part in the secession bid, will return to Barcelona to resume office.

Puigdemont, who was ousted as part of the Spanish government's takeover of Catalonia, risks being detained if he comes back, as do four other ex-ministers who fled with him.

Meanwhile, Carme Forcadell, another prominent pro-independence lawmaker re-elected last month, said Thursday she will not seek re-election as the regional parliament's speaker when the chamber sits next week.

Forcadell, also is under investigation for rebellion for her involvement in the push for independence. She said it was time for someone else to occupy the post of parliament speaker. The role is important because the speaker can decide what is debated and voted on.

____

Barry Hatton contributed from Lisbon, Portugal.

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