Catalan parliament speaker gets bail but gagged for election campaign

Carme Forcadell, Speaker of Catalan parliament, gestures as she leaves Spain’s Supreme Court in Madrid, Spain on November 2, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 10 November 2017
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Catalan parliament speaker gets bail but gagged for election campaign

MADRID: The Catalan parliament’s speaker was to be released from prison on Friday, but the terms she agreed to in exchange for being granted bail seem likely to prevent her from campaigning on a pro-independence ticket for regional elections next month.
Carme Forcadell appeared in the Supreme Court on Thursday to answer charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds, after she enabled a declaration of independence by the Catalan parliament in late October that prompted the Spanish government to take control of the region.
She was released on bail of 150,000 euros after agreeing to renounce any political activity that went against the Spanish constitution, according to the court’s ruling.
Those terms threaten to further undermine a pro-secessionist movement in which cracks are starting to appear.
Court sources had on Thursday quoted her as saying the independence declaration had not been legally binding.
Judge Pablo Llarena said the court could reconsider its ruling if it found evidence of her committing more offenses — effectively banning her from campaigning for independence for the Dec. 21 election.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called the election following the independence declaration, and also dissolved the Catalan parliament and fired the administration of Catalan president Carles Puigdemont.
Forcadell at the time described Rajoy’s actions as a “coup” and an “attack against democracy,” while Puigdemont called the declaration a major step toward establishing an independent Catalan state.
On Tuesday, the PDeCAT party of Puigdemont — who went to Brussels after being deposed — failed to agree on a united ticket to contest the election with another secessionist party, denting the pro-independence camp’s hopes of pressing ahead with its bid to split from Spain after the election.
The court said in a statement it had received Forcadell’s bail payment and an official was en route to prison to release her.
Authorities are continuing to investigate her role in Catalonia’s banned independence drive, and the court confiscated her passport and ordered her to report to judicial authorities once a week.
The court had summoned her along with five Catalan lawmakers, four of whom were released on Friday on 25,000-euro bail after surrendering their passports. The fifth was released without bail or conditions.
Eight former members of the Catalan government and the leaders of the two main pro-independence grassroots groups remain in prison pending a separate investigation by the High Court.
Puigdemont, who also faces charges of rebellion and sedition, is appealing against an international arrest warrant served by Spain.
A grassroots Catalan pro-independence groups, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), said it had paid Forcadell’s bail and called a protest for Saturday to demand the release of the others.
“The bank of solidarity will cover the bails for the members of parliament. You are not alone!,” the ANC said on Twitter on Thursday.
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10 killed in Nicaragua protests against pension reform plan

Updated 22 April 2018
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10 killed in Nicaragua protests against pension reform plan

  • Students from Polytechnic University have been holed up on their campus since Thursday evading police.
  • Murillo compared the protesters to "vampires demanding blood to feed their political agenda."
MANAGUA: Violent protests against a proposed change to Nicaragua's pension system have left at least 10 people dead over two days, the government said Friday.
In the biggest protests in President Daniel Ortega's 11 years in office in this poor Central American country, people are angry over the plan because workers and employers would have to chip in more toward the retirement system.
The government is willing to hold a dialogue and Ortega will issue a formal call on Saturday, Vice President Rosario Murillo said, adding: "At least 10 compatriots have died."
Demonstrations rocked the capital Managua and nearby cities for a third day.
The new law, besides increasing employer and employee contributions, would cut the overall pension amount by five percent.
"We are against these reforms, which means we're against this government taking from the pockets of Nicaraguans," said Juan Bautista.
He said riot police brutally attacked demonstrators like him because "the dictator does not like people to protest."
A woman nearby shouted: "The people are tired of this repression!"
Students from Polytechnic University have been holed up on their campus since Thursday evading police. Other students took refuge in nearby buildings or residences.
In Las Colinas, south of the capital, demonstrators raised small barricades and with their hands raised asked the riot police not to target them.
Four independent television outlets were taken off the air after they broadcast the demonstrations on Thursday, and two were still blocked on Friday.
Murillo compared the protesters to "vampires demanding blood to feed their political agenda."
The opposition said more than 20 people were wounded while the writers group Pen Nicaragua said that at least 11 journalists were attacked while covering the demonstrations.
"We call on the Nicaraguan authorities to act to prevent further attacks on demonstrators and on the media," said Liz Throssell, spokeswoman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights."
She urged the government to let people "exercise their right to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly and association," and urged protesters to demonstrate "peacefully."
She also said demonstrators were attacked by government supporters in the city of Masaya.
Miguel Mora, director of the private television channel 100% Noticias -- which the government blocked -- accused Ortega of applying the same censorship he imposed in the 1980s during the Sandinista Revolution.
When Ortega returned to power in 2007 he promised to "never censor a media outlet -- and today he is doing just that," Mora told Channel 14.