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Judge in Spain Orders Release on Bail of Catalan Separatists

The Supreme Court took over the case of Mr. Junqueras and the other separatist leaders after they were jailed without bail by a judge on the National Court, the country’s highest criminal court.

Most Catalan separatist politicians have recently softened their positions, recognizing Mr. Rajoy’s right to impose direct rule on the region, which he did on Oct. 27 after separatist lawmakers voted for independence.

Separatists, including Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan leader, have argued that Spain’s judiciary had jailed Catalan leaders unjustifiably on political grounds.

Since late October, Mr. Puigdemont has been in Brussels, where he is fighting possible extradition and planning his candidacy in the new elections. He has refused to return to Spain, asserting that he could not receive a fair trial there.

On Monday, a Belgian judge postponed for a second time, to Dec. 14, a decision on whether to accept Mr. Puigdemont’s argument or to comply with a European warrant for his arrest and that of four other former members of the Catalan government who failed to appear in court in Madrid.

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Oriol Junqueras, right, the ousted deputy leader of Catalonia, arriving at a court in Madrid last month. Credit Fernando Alvarado/European Pressphoto Agency

In all, the Spanish attorney general wants to prosecute 20 Catalan politicians for rebellion, sedition and the misuse of public funds to organize the independence referendum on Oct. 1 that was declared illegal by the Spanish government and courts.

If found guilty of rebellion, Mr. Puigdemont, Mr. Junqueras and the others could face up to 30 years in prison.

Mr. Puigdemont unexpectedly left Catalonia for Brussels shortly after separatist lawmakers declared independence. Upon arriving in the Belgian capital, Mr. Puigdemont told a news conference that his decision was intended to bring the Catalan conflict into the “institutional heart of Europe,” since Brussels is home to the most important institutions of the European Union.

Since then, however, he has repeatedly criticized the European Union for failing to intervene in the Catalan conflict. Mr. Puigdemont’s presence in Brussels also heightened political tensions within Belgium, where a fragile coalition government includes some Flemish politicians who support Catalan independence.

On the day Catalan separatist lawmakers voted for independence, the Spanish Senate granted Mr. Rajoy emergency powers to take administrative control of Catalonia and to oust Mr. Puigdemont and his administration.

Mr. Rajoy also decided to call early elections in Catalonia apparently as a way to catch the separatists off guard and to allow him to swiftly end Madrid’s direct rule of the region.

The most recent opinion polls suggest that neither side will secure a decisive victory on Dec. 21. Catalan separatist parties are forecast to lead again, but with fewer votes than in 2015, possibly losing their parliamentary majority.

Source: NYT > World

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