Spain seeking rebellion charges for Catalans following independence declaration

Politics Associated Press

(Reuters)

The Latest on the Spain-Catalonia political crisis (all times local):

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4:35 p.m.

A spokesman with Spain's prosecutor office says that the country's top prosecutor will seek rebellion charges for those responsible for a vote in favor of declaring an independent Catalan republic.

The spokesman said the prosecutor is looking to determine if the charges should be limited to the Catalan cabinet, including President Carles Puigdemont and Vice President Oriol Junqueras, or if they should also include members of the parliament's governing board and lawmakers.

The official, who spoke under condition of anonymity in line with internal rules, said the charges could be brought as early as Monday.

Under Spanish criminal law, rebellion can be punished with up to 25 years in prison, with shorter term penalties if the act of rebellion doesn't lead to violence.

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4:30 p.m.

Spain's government says Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's cabinet will enact measures approved by the Spanish Senate immediately to take over the regional government in Catalonia during an urgent meeting later Friday.

A spokesman with the central government who requested anonymity because he wasn't allowed to be named in media reports said Rajoy's cabinet would also seek to appeal to the Constitutional Court the declaration of independence that was passed Friday in the regional Catalan parliament.

Spain is facing its greatest threat to unity yet after Catalan lawmakers voted Friday to make their region independent.

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4:15 p.m.

Spain's Senate has authorized the government to apply constitutional measures to take control of the government of Catalonia.

A majority of senators gave Spanish Prime Minister the go-ahead Friday to apply unprecedented measures including sacking Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont and his cabinet. It also authorized him to curtail Catalan parliamentary powers.

The vote came shortly after the Catalan parliament itself voted in Barcelona to declare the region's independence and to begin forming a new state in a ballot boycotted by opposition deputies.

The Spanish government must now decide how and when to apply the measures. It says they are temporary and aimed at restoring legality in the northeastern region that is an economic powerhouse in Spain.

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3:45 p.m.

Spain's prime minister has urged all citizens to remain calm after Catalonia's parliament approved a motion declaring the wealthy region a republic independent from Spain.

Mariano Rajoy made the appeal in a tweet Friday, minutes after the regional parliament, which has 135 seats, voted in a secret ballot that opposition Catalan lawmakers boycotted. The motion was passed in a 70-10 vote with two blank ballots.

Rajoy said: "I call on all Spaniards to remain calm. The rule of law will restore legality to Catalonia."

Rajoy's tweet came as the Spanish Senate in Madrid prepared to approve government proposals to take direct control of region Catalonia. A majority of senators were expected to give Rajoy the go-ahead to apply unprecedented measures including sacking Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont and his cabinet.

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3:40 p.m.

Thousands of people who have gathered outside Catalonia's parliament building in support of the region's independence bid cheered and danced after the parliament passed a motion saying it wanted to establish an independent Catalan Republic.

The crowds had watched the voting process and the counting live on big screens.

Regional President Carles Puigdemont and Vice President Oriol Junqueras exchanged congratulatory embraces and handshakes after the vote, which saw 70 out of 135 votes in favor of independence, 10 against and 2 blank ballots. Most opposition lawmakers had left the chamber in protest moments before the vote.

The two leaders were among the members of the regional government who cast votes in the parliamentary chamber Friday.

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3:25 p.m.

Catalonia's regional parliament has passed a motion saying they are establishing an independent Catalan Republic.

Separatist lawmakers erupted in applause as the vote was approved with 70 votes in favor of independence, 10 against and 2 blank ballots. Most opposition lawmakers had left the chamber in protest moments before the vote.

Spain opposes the independence bid and the national government in Madrid is readying measures to take over control of the northeastern region. No country has expressed support for the secession bid.

The motion calls for beginning an independence process that includes drafting Catalonia's new top laws and opening negotiations "on equal footing" with Spanish authorities to establish cooperation.

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3:20 p.m.

Catalonia's lawmakers have finished casting their votes in the regional parliament on whether to declare independence from Spain.

The vote in parliament is a secret ballot and lawmakers were being called up one by one to place their paper vote in a transparent ballot box.

Opposition lawmakers had walked out of the chamber ahead of Friday's vote in protest. Secessionists hold a slim majority in the parliament.

It wasn't immediately clear how long the vote would take to count.

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3 p.m.

Dozens of opposition lawmakers have walked out of the Catalan parliament chamber ahead of a key vote on independence from Spain.

Legislators from the opposition Socialists and Citizens parties had announced earlier that they would boycott the vote on the establishment of a new Catalan Republic in a motion proposed by the majority separatists.

Lawmakers from Partido Popular — the ruling party at the national level, but a minority in Catalonia  — also walked out after placing Spanish and Catalonia official flags in their empty seats.

The voting of the motion would be conducted by secret ballot after the ruling separatist coalition made a last minute-request that the parliament's speaker accepted.

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2:25 p.m.

The spokesman for the radical-left secessionist CUP party says that Catalonia is poised to exercise what separatists call the Spanish region's right to self-determination.

Carles Riera of CUP says "Today we are ready to make a historic step . Today we become a political entity with right to self-determination and we are exercising it."

The Catalan parliament is set to vote on declaring independence from Spain in Friday's session of the regional parliament, where separatists hold an advantage in seats.

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2:05 p.m.

A socialist lawmaker in the Catalan parliament has lambasted separatists for bending national and regional laws to move toward declaring independence and vowed to work "for the return of legality to public institutions."

Spokeswoman Eva Granados says that the legislators of the Socialists of Catalonia Party, or PSC, will be absent from the vote on a proposal to establish a new republic. Conservative unionist parties in the opposition have also promised to leave the chamber.

Granados said the separatists are "thoughtless" and asked them why to build a new country based on a concept of democracy that is "intolerant and sectarian," and that excludes those who oppose independence.

The ruling separatist coalition and far-left anti-establishment lawmakers hold a slim majority in the Catalan parliament that would in theory allow them to pass a motion to move toward independence.

Spain has vowed to stop any attempt at secession.

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1:50 p.m.

The spokesman for the leading opposition party in Catalonia's parliament has torn into pieces a copy of the proposal by separatists to declare independence for the region from the rest of Spain.

Carlos Carrizosa, spokesman for the pro-union Citizens party, has ripped up the copy of the proposed law to declare independence during Friday's debate prior to an expected vote in Catalonia's parliament.

Carrizosa says "with this paper you leave those Catalans who don't follow you orphaned without a government, and that's why Citizens won't let you ruin Catalonia."

He added that "today is a sad, dramatic day in Catalonia. Today is the day that you (secessionists) carry out your coup against the democracy in Spain."

Secessionists hold a slim majority in the parliament based on less than half the vote due to Spanish elections law which gives more representation to sparsely popular areas.

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1:20 p.m.

Several hundred Catalan town mayors have joined in a chant for "Independence!" inside Catalonia's regional parliament building.

The show of support for secession comes hours before the Catalan parliament is expected to vote on a proposal to break with the rest of Spain and form an independent republic.

The mayors shouted and raised their ceremonial wooden staves that represent their position as heads of municipalities in the northeastern region of Spain.

Ramon Moliner, the mayor of Alp, in the northern Pyrenees region, said Friday was a historic day. "We are beginning a new chapter as a country, a very uncertain stage in many ways but very exciting," he said.

Spain has vowed to stop any attempt of secession.

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11:50 a.m.

Catalan separatist lawmakers have filed a motion to hold a vote in the upcoming regional parliament session on whether to establish a republic independent of Spain.

The proposal of the ruling Catalan coalition Junts pel Si (Together for Yes) and their allies of the far-left CUP party says that "We establish a Catalan Republic as an independent and sovereign state of democratic and social law."

Lawmakers from both parliamentary groups have a slim majority that would in theory allow them to pass the motion during a vote later Friday, if the parliament's advisory board allows it.

The move is opposed by all the opposition in the prosperous region —with some opposition lawmakers saying they will boycott the vote— and in Spain, where authorities are seeking to sack the Catalan ruling coalition to halt their secession bid.

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11:25 a.m.

Several thousand protesters have gathered near Catalonia's regional parliament before a debate in the legislature where independence from Spain might formally be declared.

Waving Catalan flags and chanting "independence" and "freedom," the demonstrators rallied outside the park in which parliament is located, hoping to see the proclamation of a new independent state by the end of the day.

A 68-year-old protester, Jordi Soler, says that "I am here today because we will start the Catalan Republic."

Soler said that "today is the last chance," noting that Catalan president Carles Puigdemont had offered to negotiate with the central government in Madrid, "but Madrid is starting with total repression and there is no longer any (other) option."

Puigdemont on Thursday ruled out calling a regional election, which might have somewhat defused Spain's worst political crisis in decades, setting the stage for a showdown with Madrid.

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10:45 a.m.

Spain's prime minister says that the special powers that the central government wants to impose in Catalonia aren't meant to take away liberties of Catalans but to protect them.

Mariano Rajoy was addressing the Senate ahead of a vote on whether to activate constitutional powers to seize control of Catalonia's autonomous powers in a bid to halt the region's independence bid.

Rajoy says that Spain is facing a challenge not seen in its recent history. Catalonia's regional parliament is also expected to hold a special session later Friday in which a formal declaration of independence may be made.

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10:25 a.m.

Spain's prime minister says the government's first move will be to dismiss Catalonia's president if special powers are granted by the country's Senate.

Mariano Rajoy was addressing the chamber ahead of a vote on whether to activate constitutional powers to seize control of Catalonia's autonomous powers in a bid to halt the region's independence bid.

Rajoy says if the measures are approved, Spain's government will fire Catalonia regional President Carles Puigdemont and his ministers.

The Spanish leader said "what is happening in Catalonia is "a clear violation of the laws, of democracy, of the rights of all, and that has consequences."

Rajoy said that the measures were the only way out of the crisis. Catalonia's regional parliament is also expected to hold a special session later Friday in which a formal declaration of independence may be made.

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10 a.m.

Spain's Senate has begun a crucial meeting to approve the Spanish government's plans to strip away Catalonia's regional powers and halt it pushing toward independence.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was greeted with applause as he entered the chamber Friday.

The government's proposals include removing the Catalan government's regional leaders from office and curtailing the authority of the region's parliament.

Meanwhile, up in the Catalan capital of Barcelona, the regional parliament was to resume debating its response to the Spanish government's plans.

The Catalan government rejects the move and there is speculation the parliament may actually take the step of declaring independence from Spain later Friday, setting the stage for a deepening clash between both sides.

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9:25 a.m.

Two crucial meetings will take place in Spain that could decide the short-term future of a country undergoing its worst political crisis in decades.

Catalonia's parliament on Friday will resume debating its response to the Spanish government's plans to strip away its regional powers to halt it pushing toward independence. But in Madrid, Spain's Senate meets to approve the government's plans and set the intervention in motion.

The government's proposals include removing the Catalan government's regional leaders from office and curtailing the authority of the region's parliament.

The Catalan government rejects the move and there is speculation the regional parliament may actually take the step of declaring independence from Spain later Friday.

 

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