Pro-secession Catalans defy King Felipe VI’s warning

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International desk, October 04: Pro-independence Catalan leaders are pressing ahead despite an emphatic warning from King Felipe VI.Catalan President Carles Puigdemont told the BBC he would declare independence “at the end of this week or the beginning of next”.

The king branded Sunday’s referendum illegal and undemocratic.

But correspondents say his failure to acknowledge the violent repression of the vote has fired up rather than deterred independence supporters.

Meanwhile, Spain’s high court has summoned the head of Catalonia’s regional police force to testify as a suspect in a investigation of alleged sedition – inciting rebellion against the state.

Josep Lluís Trapero and three other people are expected to appear in court on Friday in a move likely to inflame sentiment further amid Spain’s deepest political crisis in decades, say correspondents.

Following the BBC interview in which he said there would be a declaration of independence in coming days, Carles Puigdemont said he would make a statement at 21:00 (19:00GMT) on Wednesday.

Groups in the Catalan parliament have agreed that parliament should meet in full assembly on Monday. Mr Puigdemont could also use that occasion to make a unilateral declaration of independence.

When asked what he would do if the Spanish government were to intervene and take control of Catalonia’s government, Mr Puigdemont said it would be “an error which changes everything”.

Under Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, the government in Madrid is permitted to impose direct rule on autonomous regions.

Mr Puigdemont says not, and Spanish President Mariano Rajoy has kept silent since the scenes of police violence which accompanied Sunday’s vote.

The Spanish government has vowed to resist any declaration of independence, with Mr Rajoy previously saying the vote made a “mockery” of democracy.

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau has called on both sides to talk. “Neither a unilateral declaration of independence nor article 155. More than ever we need dialogue and bridges,” she tweeted.

The European parliament was due to debate the crisis on Wednesday afternoon, but any resolution passed will be non-binding.

In his televised address, King Felipe said the Catalan leaders who organised the referendum showed their “disrespect to the powers of the state”.

“They have broken the democratic principles of the rule of law,” he said.

But many Catalans were more concerned about what the king did not say, reports the BBC’s Patrick Jackson who watched the address in a bar in Barcelona city centre.

“There were no words about the scenes of police beating voters on Sunday, no urgent appeal for dialogue between the Spanish and Catalan governments, no acknowledgment of the real hunger here for independence or at least a proper, legal referendum, not even a word or two of Catalan,” he says.

Source: BBC