Sacked Catalan leader vows to lead despite Spain ‘threats’

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont (C) arrives at the University of Copenhagen to take part in a debate entitled: “Catalonia and Europe at a crossraods for democracy?” on January 22, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 January 2018
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Sacked Catalan leader vows to lead despite Spain ‘threats’

COPENHAGEN: Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont on Monday vowed to form a new government despite “threats” from the central government in Madrid, after a Spanish judge refused to re-issue a European warrant for his arrest.
Speaking at a debate on Catalonia at the University of Copenhagen, Puigdemont said: “We will not surrender to authoritarianism despite Madrid’s threats.”
“Soon we will form a new government... it’s time to end their oppression and find a political solution for Catalonia,” the 55-year-old politician added.
Puigdemont’s comments came hours after the speaker of the Catalan parliament proposed him as president of Catalonia following an election in December in which separatist parties once again won an absolute majority.
Roger Torrent said Puigdemont’s candidacy to once again head Catalonia’s regional government is “absolutely legitimate,” even though the secessionist leader faces criminal proceedings in Spain over his role in Catalonia’s independence drive.
Puigdemont defied Spanish prosecutors’ attempt to re-issue a European arrest warrant if he left Belgium, where he has been in exile since a failed independence bid.
But Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena turned down the request, arguing Puigdemont had gone to Denmark “to provoke this arrest abroad” as part of a strategy to boost his arguments in favor of being allowed to be sworn in as president of Catalonia again.
Puigdemont wants to be sworn in from Belgium, where he fled in late October after the Catalan parliament declared unilateral independence, sparking shock waves across an EU already shaken by Britain’s vote to leave.

Madrid sacked Puigdemont and his entire government, and it dissolved the parliament following the declaration.
Charged with rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds, Puigdemont now faces arrest if he returns to Spain over his role in the independence drive.
“Fundamental freedoms have been undermined, democratically elected politicians have been sent to prison and treated like terrorists,” he told students in Copenhagen, describing the moves as acts of “revenge.”


Guantanamo prison takes on geriatric airs

Updated 32 min 4 sec ago
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Guantanamo prison takes on geriatric airs

  • The population still imprisoned at the military base in Cuba range from middle-aged to elderly
  • With a budget of $12 million, a prison annex has been transformed into a public hospital, complete with modern equipment

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba: The controversial Guantanamo Bay prison still houses 40 aging inmates — and with no plans to close it, many of them will probably remain there until they die.
The population still imprisoned at the military base in Cuba range from middle-aged to elderly — the oldest inmate is 71 — so the prison with a history of torture has taken on some airs of a geriatric facility.
The US Army — directed to ensure Guantanamo can stay open at least another 25 years — has revamped parts of the institution home to terror suspects to include a dedicated medical center and operating rooms.
“There has been a lot of thought put into what preparing for an aging detainee population looks like and what infrastructure we need to have in place to do that safely and humanely,” said Anne Leanos, the public affairs director for Joint Task Force Guantanamo.
With a budget of $12 million, a prison annex has been transformed into a public hospital, complete with a radiology room equipped with an MRI scanner, as well as an emergency room and three-bed intensive care unit.
During a journalist visit to the new clinic, a walker sits in the corner of a room, which has a hospital bed, wheelchair and medical equipment akin to any other infirmary.
But there is no window, and wire mesh serves as a partition, recalling that this is still very much a detention center.
Congress will not allow sick prisoners to travel to the United States for treatment: Guantanamo inmates are considered highly dangerous by the government, which accuses them of participating in various attacks including those of September 11.
No prisoner needs a wheelchair yet — but if the need arises, the clinic is prepared with ramps.
Patients suffer from ailments common for their age: diabetes, hypertension, gastrointestinal diseases and motor disorders.
The second-floor psychiatric ward is equipped with two cells converted into consultation rooms.
A third, completely empty cell is padded and serves as the isolation room for prisoners experiencing psychotic episodes.
Like any staff deployed to Guantanamo, prison psychiatrists usually stay just nine to 12 months on site, limiting the scope of their interaction with prisoners.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visits Guantanamo about four times a year to make sure the prison is complying with detention standards and to assess detainees’ treatment.
Since the infamous detention center opened in 2002, nine inmates have died: seven committed suicide, according to the military, while one died of cancer and another had a heart attack.
The largest contingent — 26 inmates — at the military complex have never been charged with anything, but are considered too dangerous to be released.
One “highly compliant” inmate was on a “non-religious fast,” at the moment of the visit — a euphemism used at the prison to describe hunger strikes prisoners regularly observe in protest.
Acts of rebellion are fairly common — and base commander Admiral John Ring said one inmate was currently under disciplinary action.
“These are the ones that could not be released,” said Ring. “Many of these gentlemen are still at war with the United States.
“Any act of resistance, no matter how small — they are still fighting the war through these minor acts of resistance.”