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Jailed ‘rebel’ makes second attempt at Catalan presidency

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Catalonia’s parliament made a second attempt to put forward a pro-independence politician awaiting trial on charges of rebellion as the region’s new leader after a UN rights group said he should be allowed to run for office, reported South China Morning Post (Hong Kong).

Lawmakers first selected Jordi Sanchez in March, but that bid was dropped as he was unable to attend the swearing-in ceremony because the government in Madrid had jailed him for helping orchestrate pro-independence protests last year.

The investiture that parliament’s speaker announced for Friday – but which Spain’s Supreme Court seems likely to block – would mark Catalonia’s fourth attempt to choose a president since a loose alliance of secessionist groups won an election there in December.

Spain’s central government called that vote when it imposed direct rule over Catalonia in October, after the wealthy northeastern region declared independence in an act that the courts said was illegal and that landed several members of the regional cabinet and civic leaders behind bars.

Along with Sanchez, Catalan lawmakers have put forward former leader Carles Puigdemont and his ally Jordi Turull as potential presidents.

Puigdemont, who fled Spain five months ago after his administration’s declaration of independence, withdrew his candidacy on March 1, and Turull fell short of majority support.

If a new leader is not named before the end of May, Catalonia will be forced to call another election.

Parliament speaker Roger Torrent said on Monday that Sanchez – the former head of pro-independence civic group Catalan National Assembly – was being nominated for a second time, following the message from the United Nations Human Rights Committee in support of his political rights.

“If the Supreme Court does not comply with the (UN) resolution it will be irreparably damaging to the political rights of Jordi Sanchez and the Spanish state will not be meeting its international obligations,” Torrent said as he announced Friday’s investiture.

In letters last month to Spanish authorities and Sanchez’s lawyers, the UN committee requested the state take all steps to ensure he be allowed to exercise his right to stand for office, while noting it had reached no decision “on the substance of the matter under consideration.”

The judge in the case against Sanchez appears unlikely to row back on a ban on him attending parliament, however, with Spain’s Supreme Court having ruled he could not leave jail for last month’s investiture session.

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Tags: Spain, Catalonia
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