October 2, 2018 / 1:47 PM / 2 months ago

Catalan parliament refuses to suspend pro-independence politicians

General view of the chamber during the vote on whether former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and other members of his government can keep their seats as lawmakers while being under investigation or in prison on charges of rebellion, at Catalonian regional Parliament in Barcelona, Spain, October 2, 2018. REUTERS/Albert Gea

MADRID (Reuters) - The Catalan parliament voted on Tuesday to reject a Spanish Supreme Court ruling that suspended former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and five other pro-independence politicians from public office, marking a new standoff with Madrid.

The assembly also backed a motion allowing all six parliament members, who have either fled Spain or are in jail, to delegate their voting rights to a party member, a spokesman for the Catalan parliament said.

In July, Spain’s Supreme Court effectively stripped Puigdemont and the other separatist politicians of their public duties due to their role in organising an independence referendum on Oct 1, 2017.

Tuesday’s moves by the Catalan assembly came a day after riot police charged in to break up a demonstration in front of the parliament building after thousands marched in Barcelona to mark the first anniversary of the referendum.

Madrid imposed direct rule on Catalonia after the referendum, which it branded as unconstitutional. It then called fresh regional elections in December in a bid to curb the independence movement, but the plan backfired and the secessionists retained a slim majority in the Catalan assembly.

Opinion polls in Catalonia show a relatively even split between those who favour remaining in Spain and those wanting to secede.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has said he favours dialogue on Catalonia’s future but has ruled out any moves towards independence.

Reporting by Jesús Aguado, Emma Pinedo and Rodrigo de Miguel; editing by Gareth Jones

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