March 27, 2019 / 12:08 PM / 8 months ago

Spanish prosecutor to investigate Catalan leader for disobedience

MADRID (Reuters) - The Spanish prosecutor for Catalonia will investigate regional president Quim Torra for disobedience over his failure to remove pro-independence symbols from Catalan government buildings, a court said on Wednesday.

Catalan Regional President Quim Torra is seen ahead of a rally of Catalan separatist organisations, in Madrid, Spain March 16, 2019. REUTERS/Juan Medina

Spain’s electoral committee ordered Torra to take down symbols such as the regional Estelada flag and yellow ribbons from public buildings across Catalonia that had been put up as a show of support for separatist leaders who are on trial for their part in a 2017 independence referendum.

In a court document, prosecutor Francisco Baneres Santos said Torra would be investigated for allegedly failing to remove the symbols within the required 48 hours.

Torra responded by saying he would bring a lawsuit against the electoral committee’s members for what he called perverting justice, according to a statement by his office.

The regional leader argued that he could not be charged with disobedience while a court had not resolved his earlier request for a protective order.

The Spanish prosecutor’s decision showed that “repression does not end” and that Spain “is incapable of tolerating political discrepancy”, Torra said.

The conflict between Spain’s central government and Barcelona came to a head in October 2017 after the regional government, lead by Carles Puigdemont, called a referendum on independence, considered illegal under Spanish law.

Catalan politicians, despite being warned by the Constitutional Court that the referendum was illegitimate, went ahead with the ballot and subsequently claimed independence from the rest of Spain, prompting Madrid to take temporary control.

Many of those involved in the secession ballot were arrested and have been in jail awaiting trial while Puigdemont quickly left the country and has been living in exile ever since.

Pro-independence supporters, including Torra, have adopted a yellow ribbon to protest the arrests and have adorned regional offices with the ribbons and flags to call attention their cause.

Torra could be removed from office for up to two years if found guilty of failing to obey the order to take them down.

Reporting by Jose Elias Rodriguez and Joan Faus; Writing by Paul Day and Joan Faus; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Catherine Evans

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