Catalan parliament speaker detained pending bail

MADRID (AFP) – The speaker of Catalonia’s sacked parliament was ordered detained on Thursday over her region’s controversial drive for independence from Spain, pending payment of a 150,000 euro bail, a court spokesman said.

Carme Forcadell and five other deputies appeared in front of Spain’s highest tribunal on charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds – which carry a maximum jail sentence of 30 years – for aiding the Catalan parliament’s secession bid.

They are suspected of having followed a “concerted strategy to declare independence”, before the official declaration on October 27, deepening Spain’s most serious political crisis in decades.

That declaration was annulled on Wednesday by Spain’s Constitutional Court.

Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena ordered one Catalan lawmaker freed, but the four others apart from Forcadell must pay 25,000 euros within a week to avoid jail.

Ex-speaker of the Catalonia parliament Carme Forcadell arrives at the Spain’s Supreme Court in Madrid, November 9. – AP

The Catalan crisis has prompted hundreds of businesses to re-register outside the wealthy north-eastern region and caused disquiet in a European Union still dealing with Britain’s shock decision to leave the bloc.

On Wednesday, a general strike called in Catalonia by a pro-independence union triggered wide-spread travel chaos, cutting Spain’s main highway link to France and the rest of Europe and disrupting trains from Barcelona to Paris, Marseille and Lyon. Authorities said around 150,000 people were affected.

Encouraged by their figurehead Carles Puigdemont, Catalan leaders voted to declare unilateral independence from Spain after going ahead with a banned referendum on October 1.