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Deposed Catalan leader hands himself into Belgian police

Carles Puigdemont's party say they want sacked leader to stand for election PDeCAT spokeswoman ..

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  • Carles Puigdemont's party say they want sacked leader to stand for election
  • PDeCAT spokeswoman said: 'We want president Puigdemont to lead offensive'
  • Puigdemont and four of his former ministers have fled to Belgium this past week
  • The sacked leader said he would fully cooperate with the Belgian justice system

By Gareth Davies For Mailonline

Published: 08:07 EST, 5 November 2017 | Updated: 08:34 EST, 5 November 2017

Sacked Catalan President Carles Puigdemont

Sacked Catalan President Carles Puigdemont

Sacked Catalonian leader Carles Puigdemont has turned himself in to Belgian police after Spain issued an arrest warrant for him and four ex-ministers.

Belgian prosecutors, who have a European arrest warrant from Spain for Puigdemont and four of his associates, said those wanted handed themselves in this morning and that their cases will be heard by judge in Brussels this afternoon.

A spokesman for the Brussels' prosecutor's office, Gilles Dejemeppe, said the five presented themselves to federal police and have been in custody since 9am local time.

He said that they have not been arrested and that Mr Puigdemont and the four ex-ministers would be heard by an investigative judge on Sunday afternoon.

The judge will have to decide what the next steps are within 24 hours. They could vary from arrest and imprisonment to conditional release.

A Spanish National Court judge issued warrants for the five separatist politicians on suspicion of five crimes, including rebellion and embezzlement, on Friday, a day after the same judge sent another eight former Catalan Cabinet members to jail without bail while her investigation continues.

A ninth spent a night in jail and was freed after posting bail.

Puigdemont wrote in Dutch in his Twitter account on Saturday that he is 'prepared to fully cooperate with Belgian justice following the European arrest warrant issued by Spain'.

Belgian state prosecutors were examining international arrest warrants issued by Spain for the ousted leader of Catalonia and other members of his disbanded Cabinet.

Puigdemont and four of his ex-ministers fled to Belgium this past week after being removed from power by Spanish authorities as part of an extraordinary crackdown to impede the region's illegal declaration of independence.

Federal prosecutors in Belgium said on Saturday that they were studying the warrants and that they had shared them with city counterparts in Brussels.

Spokesperson of Brussels Federal prosecutor Gilles Dejemppe gives a press briefing in Brussels, BelgiumSpokesperson of Brussels Federal prosecutor Gilles Dejemppe gives a press briefing in Brussels, Belgium

Spokesperson of Brussels Federal prosecutor Gilles Dejemppe gives a press briefing in Brussels, Belgium

General Coordinator of the Democratic European Party of Catalonia (PDeCAT) Marta Pascal speaks during the National Council meeting held to define the party's position regarding Catalan regional elections on 21 December in Barcelona, SpainGeneral Coordinator of the Democratic European Party of Catalonia (PDeCAT) Marta Pascal speaks during the National Council meeting held to define the party's position regarding Catalan regional elections on 21 December in Barcelona, Spain

General Coordinator of the Democratic European Party of Catalonia (PDeCAT) Marta Pascal speaks during the National Council meeting held to define the party's position regarding Catalan regional elections on 21 December in Barcelona, Spain

pokesperson of Brussels Federal prosecutor Gilles Dejemppe (centre) gives a press briefing in Brussels, Belgium, after Carles Puigdemont turned himself inpokesperson of Brussels Federal prosecutor Gilles Dejemppe (centre) gives a press briefing in Brussels, Belgium, after Carles Puigdemont turned himself in

pokesperson of Brussels Federal prosecutor Gilles Dejemppe (centre) gives a press briefing in Brussels, Belgium, after Carles Puigdemont turned himself in

Sacked Catalan President Carles Puigdemont makes a statement in this still image from video calling for the release of 'the legitimate government of Catalonia', after a Spanish judge ordered nine Catalan secessionist leaders to be held in custody pending a potential trial over the region's independence push, in Brussels, BelgiumSacked Catalan President Carles Puigdemont makes a statement in this still image from video calling for the release of 'the legitimate government of Catalonia', after a Spanish judge ordered nine Catalan secessionist leaders to be held in custody pending a potential trial over the region's independence push, in Brussels, Belgium

Sacked Catalan President Carles Puigdemont makes a statement in this still image from video calling for the release of 'the legitimate government of Catalonia', after a Spanish judge ordered nine Catalan secessionist leaders to be held in custody pending a potential trial over the region's independence push, in Brussels, Belgium

Independence supporters protest against the judge order on Catalan leaders to be held in custody in jail pending trial on November 2, 2017 in Barcelona, SpainIndependence supporters protest against the judge order on Catalan leaders to be held in custody in jail pending trial on November 2, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain

Independence supporters protest against the judge order on Catalan leaders to be held in custody in jail pending trial on November 2, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain

The separatist party of deposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who is facing an arrest warrant issued by Spain, said Sunday they wanted him as candidate for regional elections on December 21.

PDeCAT spokeswoman Marta Pascal told party members: 'We want president Puigdemont to be the person who leads the big offensive we will carry out on the 21st at the polls.'

However, Puigdemont's lawyer in Brussels had previously said that his client plans to fight extradition to Spain without requesting political asylum.

Legal experts estimate that the process from arrest to extradition, including appeals, could take as long as two months before Puigdemont would be sent back to Spain.

That delay could give Puigdemont time to influence, and even participate from afar, in the snap regional election called by Spain's government for Catalonia on December 21.

While Puigdemont remains absconded in Europe's capital, back in northeastern Spain political forces are hurriedly jockeying for position to start a campaign that promises to be as bitter as it is decisive to Spain's worst institutional crisis in nearly four decades.

While pro-union parties try to rally support to win back control of the regional parliament in Barcelona, pro-secession parties are debating whether or not to form one grand coalition for the upcoming ballot.

Parties have until Tuesday to register as coalitions or they must run separately. Puigdemont weighed in on the debate Saturday, backing his center-right Democratic Party of Catalonia's push to form one pro-secession bloc.

Catalan ex-regional president Artur Mas, the first leader to harness the political momentum for secession, told Catalan public television on Sunday that he backed a fusion of parties for the December vote.

But, he said, the main goals must be to recover the self-rule of the region and the release of the jailed separatists, not another immediate attempt to culminate the independence drive.

'Under these exceptional circumstances that our country is going through, don't we have to substitute the normal and logical competition for the cooperation we all need?' Mas said.

'If we add the issue of independence, we won't get as many people to support us.'

The separatist majority of Catalonia's Parliament ignored repeated warnings from Spanish authorities and voted in favor of a declaration of independence on October 27.

The next day, Spain's central government used extraordinary constitutional powers to fire Catalonia's government, take charge of its administrations, dissolve its regional parliament and call a regional election.

Spain's Constitution says the nation is 'indivisible' and that all matters of national sovereignty pertain to the country's parliament.

In all, Spanish prosecutors are investigating 20 regional politicians for rebellion and other crimes that could be punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

Another two leaders of pro-secession grassroots groups are also in jail while an investigation continues into suspicion of sedition.

Hundreds of pro-secession Catalans gathered in town squares across the region Sunday to put up posters in support of independence and to demand the release of the jailed separatists.

Thousands of people took to the streets of Bilbao despite the rain to support Catalonia Thousands of people took to the streets of Bilbao despite the rain to support Catalonia 

Thousands of people took to the streets of Bilbao despite the rain to support Catalonia

Demonstrators carrying both Basque and Catalan flags walked side by side in the rainDemonstrators carrying both Basque and Catalan flags walked side by side in the rain

Demonstrators carrying both Basque and Catalan flags walked side by side in the rain

The demonstrators marched peacefully through the centre of the city despite the heavy rainThe demonstrators marched peacefully through the centre of the city despite the heavy rain

The demonstrators marched peacefully through the centre of the city despite the heavy rain

Demonstrators in Barcelona described the jailed Catalonian ministers as 'political prisoners' Demonstrators in Barcelona described the jailed Catalonian ministers as 'political prisoners' 

Demonstrators in Barcelona described the jailed Catalonian ministers as 'political prisoners'

Trade unionists joined the demonstration in Bilbao which criticised Article 155 of the Spanish constitution which gave Madrid power to take over the Catalonian institutionsTrade unionists joined the demonstration in Bilbao which criticised Article 155 of the Spanish constitution which gave Madrid power to take over the Catalonian institutions

Trade unionists joined the demonstration in Bilbao which criticised Article 155 of the Spanish constitution which gave Madrid power to take over the Catalonian institutions

'People came today because we want to send a message to Europe that even if our president is still in Brussels and all our government now is in Madrid jailed, that the independence movement still didn't finish and people are still striving to get independence in a peaceful and democratic way,' said 24-year-old protester Adria Ballester in Barcelona.

The grassroots group Catalan National Assembly has also called for a strike on Wednesday and a public protest on Saturday.

Fueled by questions of cultural identity and economic malaise, secessionist sentiment has skyrocketed to reach roughly half of the 7.5 million residents of Catalonia, a prosperous region that is proud of its Catalan language spoken along with Spanish.

Puigdemont and his fellow separatists claim that an illegal referendum on secession held on October 1 that polled 43 percent of the electorate and failed to meet international standards gives them a mandate for independence.

Barcelona fans unfurled a banner calling for justice at the Camp Nou during last night's gameBarcelona fans unfurled a banner calling for justice at the Camp Nou during last night's game

Barcelona fans unfurled a banner calling for justice at the Camp Nou during last night's game

Demonstrators said Article 155 of the Spanish constitution was anti-democraticDemonstrators said Article 155 of the Spanish constitution was anti-democratic

Demonstrators said Article 155 of the Spanish constitution was anti-democratic

Spain faces various groups who want various forms of independence from Madrid

SPAIN'S OTHER REBEL REGIONS

BASQUE REGION

The Basque people have their own language and culture. They faced serious repression under General Franco's fascist dictatorship and began subversive acts against the state in the late 1950s, founding a terrorist organisation ETA.

ETA's first known victim was a secret police chief in San Sebastian in 1968 and its last a French policemen shot in 2010.

The group's first revolutionary gesture was to fly the banned 'ikurrina', the red and green Basque flag, before the campaign escalated in the 1960s into violence that was brutally reciprocated by the Franco regime.

In 1973, ETA targeted Franco's heir apparent Luis Carrero Blanco by digging a tunnel under the road that he drove down daily to attend Mass. They packed the tunnel with explosives and blasted Blanco's car over a five-storey building.

The assassination changed the course of Spanish history, as the removal of Franco's successor led to the exiled king reclaiming the throne and a shift to a constitutional monarchy.

Attacks including a 1987 car bomb at a Barcelona supermarket, which killed 21 including a pregnant woman and two children, horrified Spaniards and drew international outrage.

GALICIAN REGION

Galica is found along Spain's north west Atlantic coast and has a long history, identity and many who want to separate from Madrid.

The region has been both Spanish and Portuguese, while some in the area claim Celtic heritage.

In the region, some people are pressing for independence, while others want to rejoin Portugal.

CATALAN COUNTRIES

Catalonia is the largest part of the Catalan countries, which also include the Balearic Islands as well as the Valencia region.

Jordi Graupera, a researcher at Princeton University told Al Jazeera: 'These territories have regionalist parties that demand, like Catalonia years ago, better autonomy and respect for cultural diversity.'

The regional government on the Balaeric Islands wants to remain part of Spain while the leadership in Valencia is yet to comment.

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Australia: Scott Morrison saga casts scrutiny on Queen’s representative

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In the past fortnight, Australia has been gripped by revelations that former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison secretly appointed himself to several additional ministries.

The move has been labelled a “power grab” by his successor as prime minister, and Mr Morrison has been scolded by many – even his own colleagues.

But the scandal has also dragged Australia’s governor-general into the fray – sparking one of the biggest controversies involving the Queen’s representative in Australia in 50 years.

So does Governor-General David Hurley have questions to answer, or is he just collateral damage?

‘Just paperwork’

Governors-general have fulfilled the practical duties as Australia’s head of state since the country’s 1901 federation.

Candidates for the role were initially chosen by the monarch but are now recommended by the Australian government.

The job is largely ceremonial – a governor-general in almost every circumstance must act on the advice of the government of the day. But conventions allow them the right to “encourage” and “warn” politicians.

Key duties include signing bills into law, issuing writs for elections, and swearing in ministers.

Mr Hurley has run into trouble on the latter. At Mr Morrison’s request, he swore the prime minister in as joint minister for health in March 2020, in case the existing minister became incapacitated by Covid.

Over the next 14 months, he also signed off Mr Morrison as an additional minister in the finance, treasury, home affairs and resources portfolios.

Mr Morrison already had ministerial powers, so Mr Hurley was basically just giving him authority over extra departments.

It’s a request the governor-general “would not have any kind of power to override or reject”, constitutional law professor Anne Twomey tells the BBC.

“This wasn’t even a meeting between the prime minister and the governor-general, it was just paperwork.”

But Mr Morrison’s appointments were not publicly announced, disclosed to the parliament, or even communicated to most of the ministers he was job-sharing with.

Australia’s solicitor-general found Mr Morrison’s actions were not illegal but had “fundamentally undermined” responsible government.

But the governor-general had done the right thing, the solicitor-general said in his advice this week.

It would have been “a clear breach” for him to refuse the prime minister, regardless of whether he knew the appointments would be kept secret, Stephen Donaghue said.

Critics push for investigation

Ultimately, Mr Hurley had to sign off on Mr Morrison’s requests, but critics say he could have counselled him against it and he could have publicised it himself.

But representatives for the governor-general say these types of appointments – giving ministers the right to administer other departments – are not unusual.

And it falls to the government of the day to decide if they should be announced to the public. They often opt not to.

Mr Hurley himself announcing the appointments would be unprecedented. He had “no reason to believe that appointments would not be communicated”, his spokesperson said.

Emeritus professor Jenny Hocking finds the suggestion Mr Hurley didn’t know the ministries had been kept secret “ridiculous”.

“The last of these bizarre, duplicated ministry appointments… were made more than a year after the first, so clearly by then the governor-general did know that they weren’t being made public,” she says.

“I don’t agree for a moment that the governor-general has a lot of things on his plate and might not have noticed.”

The historian says it’s one of the biggest controversies surrounding a governor-general since John Kerr caused a constitutional crisis by sacking Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975.

Prof Hocking famously fought for transparency around that matter – waging a lengthy and costly legal battle that culminated in the release of Mr Kerr’s correspondence with the Queen.

And she says the same transparency is needed here.

The Australian public need to know whether Mr Hurley counselled the prime minister against the moves, and why he didn’t disclose them

The government has already announced an inquiry into Mr Morrison’s actions, but she wants it to look at the governor-general and his office too.

“If the inquiry is to find out what happened in order to fix what happened, it would be extremely problematic to leave out a key part of that equation.”

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – Mr Morrison’s predecessor – has also voiced support for an inquiry.

“Something has gone seriously wrong at Government House,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“It is the passive compliance along the chain… that did undermine our constitution and our democracy… that troubles me the most. This is how tyranny gets under way.”

PM defends governor-general

Prof Twomey says the criticism of Mr Hurley is unfair – there’s was no “conspiracy” on his part to keep things secret.

“I don’t think it’s reasonable for anyone to expect that he could have guessed that the prime minister was keeping things secret from his own ministers, for example.

“Nobody really thought that was a possibility until about two weeks ago.”

Even if he had taken the unprecedented step to publicise the appointments or to reject Mr Morrison’s request, he’d have been criticised, she says.

“There’d be even more people saying ‘how outrageous!'” she says. “The role of governor-general is awkward because people are going to attack you either way.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has also defended Mr Hurley, saying he was just doing his job.

“I have no intention of undertaking any criticism of [him].”

A role fit for purpose?

Prof Hocking says it’s a timely moment to look at the role of the governor-general more broadly.

She points out it’s possible the Queen may have been informed about Mr Morrison’s extra ministries when Australia’s parliament and people were not.

“It does raise questions about whether this is fit for purpose, as we have for decades been a fully independent nation, but we still have… ‘the relics of colonialism’ alive and well.”

Momentum for a fresh referendum on an Australian republic has been growing and advocates have seized on the controversy.

“The idea that the Queen and her representative can be relied upon to uphold our system of government has been debunked once and for all,” the Australian Republic Movement’s Sandy Biar says.

“It’s time we had an Australian head of state, chosen by Australians and accountable to them to safeguard and uphold Australia’s constitution.”

But Prof Twomey says republicans are “clutching at straws” – under their proposals, the head of state would also have been bound to follow the prime minister’s advice.

“It wouldn’t result in any changes that would have made one iota of difference.”

 

Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-62683210

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Australia election: PM Morrison’s security team in car crash in Tasmania

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A car carrying the Australian prime minister’s security team has crashed in Tasmania during an election campaign visit.

Four police officers were taken to hospital with “non-life threatening injuries” after the car and another vehicle collided, authorities said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was not in the car, but the accident prompted him to cancel the rest of his campaign events on Thursday.

The other driver involved was not hurt.

Tasmania Police said initial investigations suggested the second car had “collided with the rear of the police vehicle, while attempting to merge”. It caused the unmarked security vehicle to roll off the road.

The two Tasmania Police officers and two Australian Federal Police officers were conscious when taken to hospital for medical assessment, the prime minister’s office said.

“Family members of the officers have been contacted and are being kept informed of their condition,” a statement said.

“The PM is always extremely grateful for the protection provided by his security team and extends his best wishes for their recovery and to their families.”

Australians go to the polls on 21 May. Mr Morrison – prime minister since 2018 – is hoping to win his conservative coalition’s fourth term in office.

Polls suggest the opposition Labor Party, led by Anthony Albanese, is favoured to win. However, Mr Morrison defied similar polling to claim victory at the last election in 2019.

Mr Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition holds 76 seats in the House of Representatives – the minimum needed to retain power.

Political observers say the cost of living, climate change, trust in political leaders, and national security will be among key issues in the campaign.

In recent weeks, the prime minister has faced accusations of being a bully and once sabotaging a rival’s career by suggesting the man’s Lebanese heritage made him less electable. Mr Morrison has denied the allegations.

Mr Albanese stumbled into his own controversy this week when he failed to recall the nation’s unemployment or interest rates.

Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-61103987

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Sydney airport warns delays could last weeks on third day of travel chaos

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Long queues at Sydney airport’s domestic terminals have continued for a third day, with some passengers missing international connections, as the airport warns delays resulting from a surge in travellers and a shortfall in security staff could continue for weeks.

Chaotic scenes were reported in the departure halls as early as 4.30am on Saturday, with some frustrated travellers, many of whom heeded the pleas of airport chiefs to arrive at least two hours before their domestic flight was due to take off, claiming only one security line was operating.

While the queues that formed early on Saturday are understood to have cleared later in the morning, the airport apologised to affected travellers.

“Traffic numbers are picking up and the close contact rules are making it hard to fill shifts and staff the airport. We appreciate your patience,” Sydney airport said on its Twitter account.

A wave of families travelling as the term two school holidays begin this weekend, combined with close contact rules that are understood to be taking out about 20% of security shifts in any given day, are driving the problem.

Certis, the company that Sydney airport contracts for its security operations, is desperately trying to recruit personnel, while the airport has reallocated back office, IT and retail workers to the departure hall to comb queues so they can prioritise passengers at risk of missing their flight.

“We are working around the clock to resolve these issues and have teams in the terminals bringing passengers forward in order of priority,” a Sydney airport spokesperson said.

He added that the airport is “anticipating it will [be] busy right through the school holiday period and peak over the Easter and Anzac Day weekends, in some cases at 90% of pre-Covid passenger levels”.

“We’re deeply grateful to passengers for their ongoing patience and we’re sorry to everyone who has been inconvenienced,” the spokesperson said. “We would also like to thank passengers for getting to the airport early and treating staff and each other with kindness and respect.”

The Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce was forced to clarify comments he made on Friday that passengers were “not match fit” and that those forgetting to remove laptops and aerosols from their bags at the security check contributing to the delays.

“Just to be clear, I’m not ‘blaming’ passengers,” Joyce said. “Of course it’s not their fault,” he said.

Qantas shed thousands of staff during the pandemic, and outsourced ground crews in a decision that was challenged in court.

On Saturday, Qantas also apologised to a Melbourne family left stranded in Sydney, after domestic flight delays caused them to miss an international trip.

Javiera Martinez, her partner Daniel Capurro and their three children were supposed to be flying to Chile on Friday to visit relatives they had not seen in three years.

But after their 8am Qantas flight from Melbourne was delayed by half an hour, baggage handling and airport transfer delays in Sydney meant they couldn’t make their 11.30am LATAM Airlines flight to Santiago.

Martinez said the airline’s procedures at the airport were chaotic.

“We think Qantas didn’t behave appropriately. I got berated by the person at the counter – they never apologised, they never assumed any responsibility at all,” she said. “It was a rude conversation. We have been mistreated badly I would say.”

The PCR tests they need to travel have now expired and they will have to take them again as they wait for seats on the next flight to Santiago from Sunday.

The airline has apologised and paid for a night’s accommodation in Sydney.

“We sincerely apologise that the family missed their connecting flight on another airline due to delays moving through Sydney airport on Friday,” a Qantas spokesperson said.

The family is among many affected by hold ups amid the busiest travel period in two years, with Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane airports warning passengers to arrive two hours before domestic flights.

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