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Catalonia: Judge jails eight ousted ministers

Order comes as Spain state prosecutor requests a European arrest warrant for ex-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont.

A Spanish judge has ordered that eight dismissed Catalan ministers be jailed while they are investigated on potential charges of sedition, rebellion and embezzlement.

The order was issued on Thursday after state prosecutors, who are investigating the leaders over their involvement in the breakaway region's declaration of independence, requested the ministers be held.

Mireia Boya Busquets, a Catalan MP from the far-left Popular Unity Candidacy party, tweeted "the legitimate government is in prison. This is a fascist state. If we normalise it we erase ourselves as a people".

Among those jailed without bail are sacked Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Turull, the former spokesperson for the Catalan government, former Minister of the Workforce Dolors Bassa and others.

The only former minister who may be released is Santi Vila, the former head of the Ministry of Business, pending a 50,000 euro ($58,300) bail payment.

Meanwhile, a state prosecutor requested a National Court to issue a European-wide arrest warrant on Thursday for ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four other sacked ministers.

Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas, Puigdemont's Catalan attorney, tweeted that it was a "grand injustice" and a "sad day for democracy".

The Belgian attorney general told the Spanish news agency, Efe, that if his office receives a warrant for Puigdemont the "law will be applied".

"If we receive [the warrant], we won't be able to make more comments or conjectures," he said.

'Climate is not good in Madrid'

The order and request for the arrest warrant for Puigdemont comes after a court appearance by several of the Catalan leaders in Madrid earlier on Thursday.

The Catalan government was sacked last Saturday after they declared independence the previous day.

The Spanish prosecutor submitted a complaint against Puigdemont and his government for their push for secession. 

Puigdemont remains in Brussels along with four of his former ministers.

"The climate is not good [in Madrid], it's better to keep a certain distance," Paul Bekaert, Puigdemont's lawyer in Belgium, told reporters earlier on Thursday.

"If they ask, [Puigdemont] will cooperate with Spanish and Belgian authorities," the lawyer added.

Commentators had said that Puigdemont's choice to stay in Belgium may cause Spanish courts to hold the accused without bail.

The same was done to Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, two pro-independence organisers held without bail on similar charges.

'We have eight ore names to add'

Spontaneous protests took place across Barcelona late on Thursday.

Thousands gathered in front of the Catalan parliament and Palace of the government in Barcelona's Gothic Quarter.

Hundreds more circled the Spanish Government delegation on Avenida Diagonal, stopping traffic and forcing public transportation to follow impromptu routes.

"The streets will always be ours!" demonstrators chanted.

Many bore posters and apparel with the images of Cuixart and Sanchez.

"Now we have to add eight more names," Maria, a protester who only gave her first name, said.

'No one is above the law'

Earlier on Thursday, Jose Montilla, a Catalan politician from the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) and former president of the Catalan government, criticised Puigdemont and the four dismissed ministers who remained in Belgium: "Enough of the tricks that have led us here," he said.

Montilla told Catalan radio he hoped justice would be exercised with "prudence", but reminded the sacked government that "no one is above the law".

Centre-left PSOE has joined with the nationalist, centre-right ruling People's Party in their opposition to Catalan independence. 

The accused former government is required to deposit 6.7m euros ($7.2m) with the courts. If they are unable to do so, their property will be seized.

The Catalan politicians could face up to 30 years in prison for the charges.

The Spanish High Court has given the accused members of parliament a week to prepare their defence.

They are expected to appear before the court on November 9.


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