Judge frees six Catalan separatists as four face Brussels extradition hearing

A Spanish judge has ordered the release of six Catalan politicians but upheld the jailing of two separatist activists and two other prominent members of the regional government ousted more than a month ago amid an unprecedented independence bid.

Magistrate Pablo Llarena, at the Supreme Court in Madrid, ordered ousted Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras, former regional interior minister Joaquim Forn and the leaders of two Catalan grassroots separatist groups to remain in jail without bail.

The judge considers that it remains to be seen if their pledges to abide by Spanish law and renounce unilateral independence for Catalonia is "truthful and real", according to a statement by the court.

Judge Llarena set bail at €100,000 for the six other Catalan politicians who were jailed in November on preliminary charges of rebellion and other offences.

Meanwhile, ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and four close separatist allies are to appear in court in Belgium for extradition hearings and a possible decision whether they will have to be sent back to Spain.

Monday’s court hearing in Brussels for the five Catalans is the latest step in their flight from Spain and their refusal to return to face rebellion and sedition charges.

Mr Puigdemont plans to lead his party’s campaign for the December 21 regional election called by Spain’s government in an attempt to find a democratic solution to the nation’s worst institutional crisis in nearly four decades.

Whatever decision is made on Monday, two appeals will be possible and a final ruling could well only come only after the vote.

AP

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