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Spain’s Supreme Court to decide fate of Catalan leaders Monday

Spain’s Supreme Court will decide on Monday whether or not to release 10 separatist leaders who were detained pending an investigation into their role in Catalonia’s banned referendum on independence.

Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena, in charge of the case, questioned the leaders on Friday, and later said that he would not make a decision until Monday, reported a judicial source who declined to be named.

Those questioned by Llarena earlier on Friday were Catalonia’s sacked Vice President Oriol Junqueras, seven other former regional ministers and the leaders of two pro-independence civic associations.

Analysts say any release on bail would mark a turn in the campaign for regional elections scheduled to be held on December 21, especially for secessionist parties who have repeatedly accused the government in Madrid of taking “political prisoners” and “repression” after their bid to declare unilateral independence failed.

“State repression is the mobilizing element of the independence movement right now,” said Oriol Bartomeus, politics professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

“Once they no longer have political prisoners, they will have to change their campaign.”

Catalan deposed regional Vice President Oriol Junqueras arrives at the National Court in Madrid on November 2, 2017 to be questioned over his efforts to spearhead Catalonia’s independence drive. (Photo by AFP)

The separatist leaders, who were axed by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on October 27 after the Catalan parliament declared unilateral independence, are charged with rebellion, sedition and accusations such as misappropriation of the public funds.

The cases of the leaders had been pursued at the National Court but Spain’s Supreme Court decided to take charge of the cases of all deposed Catalan leaders on November 24, maintaining that they were interrelated in the bid for independence Madrid says is illegal.

Llarena has already freed former Catalan regional parliament members, saying they were not required to go to jail as long as the investigation against them goes on. This implies, according to analysts, that the new judge might order other separatist leaders, who are currently in jail, be freed as well, pending trial.

Catalonia’s deposed President Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium after his October 27 declaration of independence led to his ouster, said he wanted the leaders “home.”

“You should get out of prison because you never should have gone there. Do whatever you need to get out,” he said on Twitter on Friday.

Arrest warrants have been issued for Puigdemont and four former Catalan regional government ministers but they remained in Belgium to escape incarceration. The charges brought against Puigdemont and his former ministers are severe and could see them jailed for up to 30 years.

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