February 20, 2018 / 10:05 AM / 8 months ago

Former Catalan MP to spurn Spain court summons in Switzerland

MADRID (Reuters) - A former member of Catalonia’s parliament who has fled to Switzerland from Spain says she will not attend a Spanish court summons over her alleged role in the region’s declaration of independence last year.

FILE PHOTO: Leftist CUP party member Anna Gabriel (R) walks past Catalan President Carles Puigdemont during a debate in the Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona, Spain, October 10, 2017. REUTERS/Albert Gea/File Photo

Anna Gabriel, a member of the far-left Catalan party CUP, told the Swiss newspaper Le Temps that she planned to stay in Switzerland and would not travel to Madrid to face Supreme Court charges which include rebellion and sedition.

“Since I will not have a fair trial at home, I have looked for a country that can protect my rights,” Gabriel told the newspaper in an interview published on Tuesday. CUP confirmed her comments.

She is due to appear before the Supreme Court on Wednesday but was understood to have left Spain to travel to Geneva earlier this month. Gabriel faces a potential prison sentence of as much as 30 years if the court finds her guilty.

No one at the court was available for comment on what the consequences might be if she failed to show up.

In a separate appearance on Swiss public television, Gabriel said she was preparing to ask for political asylum if the Spanish courts call for her extradition.

Several prominent members of the former Catalan government have been arrested and released on bail or are awaiting trial on remand after organizing an independence referendum Oct. 1 and later making a unilateral declaration of independence.

A court ruled that the attempt by the wealthy northeastern region to split from Spain was unconstitutional, prompting Madrid to dismiss the Catalan government and take control before calling a new regional election.

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont fled the country shortly after the independence declaration and remains in self-imposed exile in Brussels with four members of his previous cabinet. All face similar charges as Gabriel for their part in the independence push.

Three Catalan independence leaders — currently on remand after bail applications were denied — have lodged a complaint with the United Nations against their detention.

The Catalan independence drive has taken Spain to the brink of its worst political crisis since the transition to democracy in the mid-1970s and has prompted thousands of companies based in region to relocate to avoid potential fallout.

Following the regional election in December, pro-independence parties continued to hold a narrow majority in the Catalan parliament, though attempts to reinstate Puigdemont as head while residing abroad have failed.

The central government plans to remain in control of the region until parties can decide on a government.

Reporting by Paul Day and Raquel Castillo, additional reporting by Tom Miles in Switzerland, Editing by Angus MacSwan

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