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Catalan leader faces temporary removal from office

Prosecutors say Quim Torra defied clear orders to remove independence symbols from public buildings

Alyssa McMurtry   | 09.07.2019
Catalan leader faces temporary removal from office

OVIEDO, Spain

Spain’s public prosecutors will pursue charges of disobedience for the leader of Catalonia, Quim Torra, after he refused to remove separatist symbols from government buildings in March.

As a consequence of the row, Spanish prosecutors announced on Tuesday that they would seek a €30,000 fine and to bar Torra for one year and 18 months from holding any type of public office.

In the statement, the prosecutors allege that despite “clear” instructions from Spanish election officials that required him to remove separatist symbols from government buildings ahead of elections, Torra “openly decided to disregard” the orders.

The symbols included yellow ribbons, which have come to symbolize support for Catalan leaders who were jailed and exiled following the failed attempts at independence in 2017, and the unofficial flag of Catalan separatists, the estelada.

Eventually, after missing deadlines given by Spanish authorities, Torra did remove some symbols. Yet, for instance, on the Catalan Parliament building, he replaced a banner featuring a yellow ribbon that read “free political prisoners and exiles” with a banner that was identical but had a white ribbon.

According to the public prosecutor’s statement, “having seen the stubbornness of the accused,” Spain’s electoral authority told the Catalan police force that they had to remove the symbolism immediately, which they did on March 22.

Quim’s trial for disobedience will begin this autumn.

If convicted, Quim would follow in the footsteps of the two previous Catalan leaders.

His predecessor, Carles Puigdemont, is currently in Belgium in self-imposed exile as he faces serious charges in Spain, including rebellion, for his role in the 2017 secession bid.

Artur Mas, who came before Puigdemont, was also barred for public office for two years for organizing an illegal vote for independence in 2014.

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