Catalan separatist in Switzerland Evades justice

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A former Catalan lawmaker and major figure in the region’s secession attempt has fled to Switzerland ahead of a court hearing in Madrid, comparing the situation in Catalonia to Turkey’s post-coup crackdown. In an interview with Switzerland’s Le Temps daily published Tuesday, Anna Gabriel, a top member of the far-left, separatist CUP party, said she had decided to leave Spain as she would not have “a fair trial at home.”

She is the latest separatist to leave the country after deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and four former regional ministers went to Belgium shortly after a failed bid to break from Spain. Gabriel was due to appear before a Supreme Court judge on Wednesday over her role in Catalonia’s failed independence drive, which prompted Madrid to impose direct rule on the region in October, sack its government and dissolve its parliament.

“I won’t go to Madrid. I’m wanted for my political activities and the government press has already declared me guilty,” she told the daily. “As I wouldn’t get a fair trial at home, I looked for a country that could protect my rights.” She said she got regular death threats from far-right extremists, adding the government wasn’t “doing anything to safeguard our security faced with fascists’ violence.”

Gabriel accused Madrid of “repression,” likening the situation in Catalonia, whose separatist leaders are under investigation for their attempt to break from Spain, with “what is happening right now in Turkey.” There, more than 55,000 people have been arrested following a failed 2016 coup, including journalists, MPs and activists. Gabriel said close to 900 people in Catalonia were either under investigation or had been charged, among them “teachers, police officers, politicians and even mere voters.”

So far, four separatist leaders have been jailed pending a probe into their role in the separatist drive on charges that include rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds. These include Catalonia’s former vice president Oriol Junqueras. “I will be more useful to my movement free than behind bars,” Gabriel said.

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