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Calling independence referendum should be a crime, says PP leader

Casado threatens new self-rule suspension if president Sánchez relies on pro-independence parties to rule Spain


26 July 2018 05:08 PM


ACN | Barcelona

Pablo Casado, the new leader of Spain’s People’s Party (PP), has said that he will push for a criminal code reform to prevent Catalonia from organizing a referendum on independence - even with the support of the Spanish government.

The opposition head and leader of the largest party in the Spanish parliament will propose to lawmakers including two new offences in the criminal code: “improper sedition" and “calling of illegal referendums.”

There are nine pro-independence leaders jailed for last October’s referendum and declaration of independence, while seven politicians—including former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont—left the country to avoid prosecution.

A court in Germany recently rejected extraditing Puigdemont back to Spain for the crime of violent rebellion, the most serious offence hanging over pro-independence leaders’ heads.

Carrying prison sentences of up to 30 years and prosecuting those who “violently and publicly" try to “declare the independence of part of the national territory,” whether the crime of rebellion can apply to independence leaders has been highly disputed.

  • “I offer you a helping hand to stop secessionism, so you don’t rely on their votes to push for policies that violate coexistence and territorial integrity” 

    Pablo Casado · PP leader

Only a few days before being elected as Spain’s president last May, the Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez acknowledged that the crime of rebellion, as it stands, is to address events “linked to military coups,” and proposed updating it to bring it into line with the events for which Catalan leaders are being prosecuted.

Sánchez’s government now depends on the support of pro-independence parties in the Spanish parliament, following a no-confidence vote against former president Mariano Rajoy triggered by a corruption scandal involving PP.

Casado, who was elected only last weekend to replace Rajoy as the PP leader, offered Sánchez to back him in the chamber, so the Spanish government would not depend on the votes of Catalan pro-independence Esquerra (ERC) and PDeCAT parties.

“I offer you a helping hand to stop secessionism, so you don’t rely on their votes to push for policies that violate coexistence and territorial integrity,” said Casado.

The PP leader also warned Sánchez that he could use the party’s majority in the senate to activate Article 155, the constitutional device used by the Spanish government last October to suspend self-rule in Catalonia and dismiss Puigdemont and his ministers.

PP "back in Catalonia"

On Thursday, Barcelona hosted PP’s first executive committee meeting since Casado was elected as president. He said that his choice of the city was to show Catalonia “will be among the top priorities of the party.”

With only four MPs, PP is among the smallest parties in the Catalan parliament, having gotten the least votes in an election last December. Yet, Casado wants PP to “lead Catalan society" and put an end to the “rage against PP supporters and unionists.”

“PP is back in Catalonia, and it’s here to stay, to be in the streets, in the media, in the debates,” said Casado, and added that “we want to be useful, because there are those who are not being useful despite having a majority in parliament,” a reference to the main unionist party in Catalonia, Ciutadans (Cs).

Led by Albert Rivera and originally born in Catalonia, Cs has surged in polls all across Spain by adopting a hard stance against Catalan independence.

The election of a hardliner such as Casado is seen by some as an attempt to counter the rise of Cs after some surveys put the party ahead of PP.