Europe

Catalan politician Anna Gabriel defies court summons

2015 file photo of Anna Gabriel Image copyright AFP
Image caption Anna Gabriel is a member of the left-wing Popular Unity (CUP) party

Catalan pro-independence politician Anna Gabriel has said she will not go before a court in Madrid this week.

Speaking from Switzerland, she said she was wanted for political reasons and did not think her trial would be fair.

She is due to appear before a Supreme Court judge on Wednesday over her role in Catalonia's independence referendum, which was deemed illegal by Madrid.

Several other pro-independence politicians have been imprisoned in connection with October's referendum.

Others, including the sacked regional President Carles Puigdemont, are in self-imposed exile in Brussels.

"I won't go to Madrid," Ms Gabriel told Switzerland's Le Temps newspaper (in French).

"I'm wanted for my political activities and the government press has already declared me guilty.

"As I wouldn't get a fair trial at home, I looked for a country that could protect my rights.

"I will be more useful to my movement free than behind bars."

Ms Gabriel is a member of the left-wing separatist party Popular Unity (CUP) and is reported to be in Geneva with other party members. The party's lawyer has said the Supreme Court will be informed in writing of her decision not to attend.

She says she is prepared to seek political asylum in Switzerland if she is unable to work there because of an extradition request.

Her Swiss lawyer, Olivier Peter, says an extradition request would be illegal because her trial is on political grounds.

The Supreme Court has not yet commented.

Ms Gabriel is one of several Catalan politicians called to appear in court this week, facing possible charges of sedition and rebellion.

Pro-independence parties called a referendum on the issue in October, which was met with a heavy police crackdown and attracted global attention. The Spanish government in Madrid sacked the Catalan regional government and called new elections, but pro-independence parties returned with a slim majority.

It is the country's biggest political crisis since democracy was restored in 1975.

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