Oriol Junqueras join members of the regional government for a demonstration. (Photographer: Angel Navarrete/Bloomberg)

Catalonia's Former Vice President to Stay in Jail for Vote

(Bloomberg) -- The Spanish Supreme Court decided to keep former Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras in jail, judging he’s likely to challenge the authority of the state again if released.

Joaquim Forn, the former head of the interior department who had political control of the regional police, will also remain in jail along with two leading activists, a court official said Monday, citing a ruling from Judge Pablo Llarena. Six former members of the ousted Catalan executive will be released once they’ve posted bail of 100,000 euros ($119,000) each.

Catalonia's Former Vice President to Stay in Jail for Vote

Catalonia is preparing for elections on Dec. 21 while the courts in Madrid investigate the leaders of the previous regional administration who staged an illegal referendum and then declared independence from Spain in October. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy fired the Barcelona government and dissolved the Catalan assembly in a bid to restore order in Spain’s biggest regional economy.

“The risk of re-offending obliges this magistrate to take a more rigorous and cautious approach,” Llarena said in his ruling. “Such danger doesn’t disappear with a formal statement that their strategy has been abandoned.”

Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, who led the two main separatist campaign groups, will also stay in jail. Sanchez is running Dec. 21 on the list of candidates led by the ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, who is campaigning from self-imposed exile in Brussels. Llarena is investigating 22 people in total, including Puigdemont who fled to Belgium following Rajoy’s crackdown.

Catalonia's Former Vice President to Stay in Jail for Vote

On Monday a court in Belgium postponed a decision on a Madrid court’s request for the former president to be sent back to Spain for questioning. Defense lawyers argued against extradition saying the alleged crimes under investigation aren’t punishable in Belgium. The court will make a decision on Dec. 14, a day when Rajoy is due in Brussels for a summit of European leaders.

The separatists are at risk of losing their majority in the Catalan assembly after their united front broke down due to the tensions involved in October’s dash for independence. Junqueras is leading a rival platform that is set to eclipse Puigdemont to become the biggest party in the separatist camp.

Kiko Llaneras, a founder of Madrid-based political risk adviser Quantio, estimates that there’s a 48 percent chance of another separatist majority. The most recent poll signals a similar trend. The three separatists parties would get up 67 seats, one short of a majority, state-owned pollster CIS said in a survey released Monday.

“Leaving some of the separatist leaders in jail helps to keep the pro-independence camp mobilized,” said Llaneras in a telephone interview. “The key now is whether the separatist parties will really be able to use it in the last week of the election campaign -- that line won’t be so strong now that some are to be released.”

Catalonia's Former Vice President to Stay in Jail for Vote

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