Catalan Separatists Face Terrorism Probe by Spanish Judge

(Bloomberg) -- A Spanish judge has named several Catalan separatist leaders as suspects in an investigation into terrorism, just as Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is seeking support from the secessionists to form a government.

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The suspects include Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan president who sought to break the region away from Spain in 2017, according to a copy of the proceedings by Judge Manuel Garcia Castellon. Twelve people are named in the ruling as targets of the investigation. The judge’s decision was emailed by the press office of the National Court, Spain’s main criminal court.

Gonzalo Boye, Puigdemont’s lawyer, declined to comment on the investigation.

Sanchez is racing against the clock to gain support from Puigdemont’s Junts party to form a government. In exchange for its support, Junts is demanding an amnesty law for hundreds of separatist activists facing criminal charges linked to the botched 2017 independence declaration.

In his decision, Garcia Castellon says Puigdemont and the other suspects are investigated as part of a broader probe into an organization called Tsunami Democratic “whose essential purpose was to subvert constitutional order and economically and politically destabilize the state.” This could be defined as terrorism, he said.

Tsunami Democratic was a protest organization formed during the independence push, with no publicly known formal structure.

Puigdemont is heading the talks for his party. He has been in self-exile in Belgium since 2017 to escape Spanish courts, and would be one of the main beneficiaries of an amnesty.

Sanchez’s Socialist party has to rely on a patchwork of parties to form a government after both it and the main opposition group, the People’s Party, failed to win a majority in an election in July. Junts has seven lawmakers, which could give Sanchez power but this has to be done before Nov. 27, or new elections will be called.

The negotiations have been stalled since late last week, largely as the Socialists and Junts fail to agree on who would benefit from the law.

The amnesty faces widespread criticism from the right-wing opposition. The People’s Party called Monday for nationwide protests on Nov. 12. Last week, Spain’s largest judges’ association issued a statement lambasting the amnesty law, saying it marked the “end of democracy.” The criticism comes even though no bill has yet been made public.

--With assistance from Jeremy Hodges.

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