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New Catalan leader wants jailed, exiled separatists in government

Restoring sacked regional ministers could throw a spanner in the works

Gulf News

Barcelona: Catalonia’s new separatist leader Quim Torra said Tuesday he would ask regional ministers jailed or exiled after a failed secession bid if they want to return to their posts in his government.

Torra, a 55-year-old hardline separatist, was appointed Catalan president on Monday after scraping through a regional parliamentary vote, promising to keep fighting to break from Spain.

He travelled to Berlin Tuesday to meet deposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who is awaiting a court decision on his extradition to Spain and hand-picked Torra as his successor.

“We will definitely propose it to them ... and if they accept, they will be regional ministers,” Torra said earlier Tuesday in an interview on Catalan radio.

Torra will now form a regional government after months of political limbo as other candidates proposed by the separatist camp after it won regional elections in December fell flat.

This in turn will automatically lift the state of emergency direct rule imposed on semi-autonomous Catalonia by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who deposed Puigdemont and his cabinet after a failed declaration of independence on October 27.

But restoring sacked regional ministers, who are now mostly in jail in Spain or abroad awaiting possible extradition, could throw a spanner in the works in this region of 7.5 million inhabitants that is deeply divided on independence.

“If this option was put on the table, we would have to look into it and determine if it is in line with the law and justifies lifting” direct rule, Spain’s central government representative in Catalonia, Enric Millo, warned on Catalan television.

Rajoy meanwhile met Tuesday with Pedro Sanchez, the opposition Socialist leader, to talk about Catalonia.

They both committed to giving a “proportional” response to any potential challenge “in defence of the constitutional law,” they said in a joint statement.

Torra’s appointment brings to an end months of uncertainty in Catalonia after separatist parties failed to get their preferred candidates through following the elections.

Puigdemont was their first choice, but he is in self-exile abroad, and two other presidential candidates they picked are in jail.

Torra does not have any judicial proceedings pending, but critics have accused him of being “xenophobic” after he wrote a series of tweets and articles that are offensive towards Spaniards.

He has since apologised.

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