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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Indian temple controversy turns political as protests grow

Updated 37 min 2 sec ago
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Indian temple controversy turns political as protests grow

  • Three dozen priests staged a sit-in against the verdict overturning the ban that kept women aged between 10 and 50 out of the temple.
  • Though Hindus form a majority of the Kerala's population of more than 35 million, it is home to millions of Muslims and Christians.

KOCHI/NEW DELHI: A senior leader of India’s ruling party warned on Friday that protesters in the southern state of Kerala would take the law into their hands if officials attempted to let women enter a hill temple at the center of a raging controversy.
A political tinge for the controversy could help Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party gain ground in Kerala, where it has never made much headway, and won just one of 98 seats it contested in the last elections to the state assembly in 2016.
Protests against women entering the Hindu temple grew on Friday, with hundreds of hard-liners blocking three women from entering the Sabarimala temple for a third day.
The demonstrators were defying a Supreme Court verdict that overturned a decades-old ruling by a lower court denying entry to women of menstrual age, whom some Hindu communities consider to be ritually unclean.
“If the government is trying to implement its agenda in Sabarimala, we will prevent it, even by taking the law into our hands,” said K. Surendran, the general secretary of Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in the state.
“Sabarimala is not a place for anybody to tamper with.”
Surendran accused the state’s Communist Party government, which has tried to implement the verdict, of provoking devotees after police gave protection to some women who sought to reach the remote site.
He did not elaborate on what the party plans to do, however.
Three dozen priests staged a sit-in against the verdict overturning the ban that kept women aged between 10 and 50 out of the temple, where a celibate deity, Lord Ayyappan, is worshipped.
Television broadcast images of scores of police attempting to calm emotional protesters, who consider the verdict a challenge to tradition and interference in religious affairs. The Supreme Court called the tradition patriarchal.
Though Hindus form a majority of the state’s population of more than 35 million, it is home to millions of Muslims and Christians.
The controversy has fired up Hindu religious sentiment, with some residents supporting the view that the temple devotees’ feelings ought to be respected.
Members of Modi’s BJP in the state have also strongly backed those seeking to block the entry of women.
Hindu hard-liners, including members of the BJP’s youth wing, have clashed with police and attacked women, including journalists, who have tried to get to the temple.
Two women who got close were forced to turn back in the face of protests and a threat by the head priest to shut the temple if they entered, senior Kerala police official S. Sreejith told reporters on Friday.
A third woman turned back at the request of police, citing the tension.