Spain Supreme Court orders trial of former Catalan leaders

Spain Supreme Court orders trial of former Catalan leaders
In this file photo taken on September 11, 2018 demonstrators hold a banner demanding freedom for Catalan jailed leader Oriol Junqueras as they gather to take part in a pro-independence demonstration in Barcelona, on September 11, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 25 October 2018

Spain Supreme Court orders trial of former Catalan leaders

Spain Supreme Court orders trial of former Catalan leaders

MADRID: Spain’s Supreme Court on Thursday ordered 18 former Catalan leaders to stand trial over their role in last year’s declaration of independence.
The court said nine jailed former leaders including Catalonia’s ex-vice president Oriol Junqueras should be tried for rebellion, which carries a prison sentence of up to 25 years.
But the region’s former president Carles Puigdemont — who played a key role in the separatist drive and is in self-imposed exile in Belgium — is not part of those sent to trial because Spain does not allow trials in absentia.
Puigdemont is also accused of rebellion.
Catalonia’s parliament declared independence on October 27 last year following a banned secession referendum that was marred by violence as national police sent in from Madrid beat voters with batons and fired rubber bullets.
The move triggered Spain’s worst political crisis since the country returned to democracy following the death of long-time dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.
Apart from Junqueras, the court ordered five other members of the Catalan government to stand trial for rebellion, along with the ex-president of the Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell.
The leaders of two powerful grassroots separatist groups, Jordi Sanchez of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), and Jordi Cuixart of Omnium Cultural, were also ordered to stand trial for rebellion. They have been in jail since October 2017.
Some of the 18 accused also face charges of embezzlement or disobedience.
The trial is expected to start in early 2019.
Junqueras and the other former Catalan cabinet members were detained in November 2017 pending trial after organizing the illegal referendum and declaring independence from Spain.
The central government responded to the unilateral declaration of independence by sacking the Catalan government, taking control of the wealthy northeastern region and calling a snap regional election.
Catalan separatist parties once again won a slim majority in the Catalan regional parliament in the December 2017 polls but they have become divided over what strategy to pursue to achieve independence.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s ruling Socialists have taken a more conciliatory approach than the conservative government they replaced earlier this year.
Sanchez’s cabinet has offered a vote on increased self-government for Catalonia but categorically ruled out a referendum on self-determination or independence.
Several of his ministers have said they would prefer if the former Catalan leaders were not in pre-trial detention even as they stress only the courts can free them.
Sanchez’s minority government depends on the support of Catalan separatist parties to pass legislation.
Polls show Catalans are evenly split on the question of independence but the overwhelming majority back a legally binding vote to settle the issue.
Catalonia’s separatist drive has deeply divided people in the wealthy northeastern region and caused resentment in the rest of Spain.


US gun lobby NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas

US gun lobby NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas
Updated 16 min 17 sec ago

US gun lobby NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas

US gun lobby NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas
  • NRA execs are facing charges of illegally diverting funds for lavish personal trips and other questionable expenditures
  • New York Attorney General Letitia James said she would not allow the NRA to “evade accountability” or oversight

AUSTIN, Texas: The National Rifle Association announced Friday it has filed for bankruptcy protection and will seek to incorporate the nation’s most politically influential gun-rights group in Texas instead of New York.
The announcement came months after New York’s attorney general sued the organization over claims that top executives illegally diverted tens of millions of dollars for lavish personal trips, no-show contracts for associates and other questionable expenditures.
The coronavirus pandemic has also upended the NRA, which last year laid off dozens of employees. The group canceled its national convention and scuttled fundraising. The NRA’s bankruptcy filing listed between $100 million and $500 million in assets and between $100 million and $500 million in liabilities. Still, the NRA claimed in announcing the move that the organization was “in its strongest financial condition in years.”
The NRA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal court in Dallas and said it planned to incorporate in Texas, where records show it formed a limited liability corporation, Sea Girt LLC, in November 2020. Sea Girt LLC made a separate bankruptcy filing Friday, listing fewer than $100,000 in liabilities.
In its filing, the NRA said its longtime leader, Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, made the decision to file for bankruptcy protection in consultation with a “special litigation committee” comprised of three NRA officials that was formed in September to oversee its legal strategies. The NRA board voted Jan. 7 to clarify LaPierre’s employment agreement, giving him the power to “reorganize or restructure the affairs” of the organization.

National Rifle Association executive Wayne LaPierre and other officials of the gun lobby are facing charges of diverting the gun lobby's money for lavish personal expenses. (AFP file photo)

“The move will enable long-term, sustainable growth and ensure the NRA’s continued success as the nation’s leading advocate for constitutional freedom – free from the toxic political environment of New York,” the NRA said in a statement.
A message seeking comment was left with a Dallas lawyer who made the bankruptcy filings on behalf of the NRA and Sea Girt LLC.
Shortly after the announcement, New York Attorney General Letitia James said she would not allow the NRA to “evade accountability” or oversight. Her office’s lawsuit last year highlighted misspending and self-dealing claims that have roiled the NRA and LaPierre in recent years— from hair and makeup for his wife to a $17 million post-employment contract for himself.
“The NRA’s claimed financial status has finally met its moral status: bankrupt,” James said.
The gun-rights group boasts about 5 million members. Though headquartered in Virginia, the NRA was chartered as a nonprofit in New York in 1871 and is incorporated in the state. Going forward, the NRA said a committee will study opportunities to relocate segments of its operations to Texas and elsewhere.
The NRA’s largest creditor, owed $1.2 million, is Ackerman McQueen, which is the group’s former advertising agency that was behind the now-shuttered NRA TV service. The NRA sued the Oklahoma-based company in 2019, alleging it was being overbilled and said in Friday’s bankruptcy filing that the debt it is owed is disputed. The lawsuit is pending. A message seeking comment was left with Ackerman McQueen.
In the New York lawsuit, Ackerman McQueen was accused of aiding lavish spending by LaPierre and other NRA executives by picking up the tab and then sending a lump sum bill to the organization for “out-of-pocket expenses.”
“No financial filing can ever shroud the moral bankruptcy of Wayne LaPierre and his wife and their lap dogs on the NRA board,” said Bill Powers, an Ackerman McQueen spokesperson and former public affairs director for the NRA.
Court records also show more than $960,000 owed to Membership Marketing Partners LLC, a firm that lists its headquarters at the same address as the NRA. Another $200,000 is owed to Speedway Motorsports, the North Carolina-based company that owns and operates NASCAR tracks, according to the records.
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott quickly welcomed the news, tweeting: “Welcome to Texas — a state that safeguards the 2nd Amendment.” The NRA said it has more than 400,000 members in Texas and plans to hold its annual convention in Houston later this year.