Jailed former Catalan VP accepts Madrid rule - lawyer

Catalonia’s secession drive has tipped Spain into its worst political crisis in decades.

This file photo taken on November 02, 2017 shows deposed Catalan regional vice president Oriol Junqueras arriving at the National Court in Madrid to be questioned over his efforts to spearhead Catalonia's independence drive. Picture: AFP

MADRID - Imprisoned former vice-president of Catalonia Oriol Junqueras and three other jailed members of his ERC party will abide by a ruling giving Madrid control over the region, their defence lawyer said on Tuesday.

Junqueras and seven other former members of the Catalonia regional cabinet were jailed on 2 November pending trial, accused of sedition, rebellion and misappropriation of funds after the local government declared independence from Spain.

Catalonia’s secession drive has tipped Spain into its worst political crisis in decades and prompted Madrid to sack the Catalan government, led by Carles Puigdemont, and call a regional election for 21 December.

The acceptance of Madrid’s rule over the region could prompt the Supreme Court to overrule the decision to hold the defendants in custody while they await trial, and release them in time to campaign for the election.

All four jailed ERC members - Junqueras, former foreign affairs chief Raul Romeva, justice affairs head Carles Mundo and work chief Dolors Bassa - have been named as candidates in the election.

The defendants did not agree with the application of Article 155, which stripped the regional government of its power after the secessionist ruling, but accepted it, their lawyer said in a statement to the Supreme Court.

“My charges accepted, and accept, the application of 155 ... but have done so from a position of deep political and judicial discrepancy,” the lawyer said.

The lawyer added that the statement does not mean that they renounce their political convictions.

The former leader of Catalonia Puigdemont, who has been in self-imposed exile in Belgium since declaring independence, said on Saturday the election would be most important in the region’s history.

Turnout for the election is expected to reach a record 80% as the deeply divisive issue of the region’s secession prompts participation from both sides.

Less than a quarter of Catalans want to continue with a plan to claim independence from Spain, according to a poll published in El Pais newspaper on Monday.

However, the same poll showed the vote evenly split between pro- and anti-independence parties in the upcoming regional election.