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Spain's High Court has summoned Catalonia's deposed leader to testify in Madrid later this week as the country's judicial system weighs up whether to proceed with criminal charges against the pro-independence leadership.
The court in Madrid issued a summons Tuesday for former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and 13 other members of his government to appear in court on Thursday and Friday.
The summons comes after Spain's chief prosecutor called Monday for charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement to be brought against members of the Catalan pro-independence government and parliament for their roles in the independence bid.
In a summons issued Tuesday, the investigating judge, Carmen Lamela, said that the first step was to summon the 14 defendants for questioning before a decision on whether to prosecute is taken. A bond of 6,207,450 euros ($7.21 million euros) was set for the defendants.
Catalonia's government declared independence Friday, following a symbolic referendum on secession from Spain on October 1. Spain reacted by imposing direct rule on the wealthy northeast region, sacking its government and calling fresh elections for December 21.
Facing potential arrest and possible heavy prison sentences of up to 30 years if prosecuted and found guilty of rebellion, the former Catalan President Puigdemont and several members of his government traveled to Brussels on Monday.
Giving a press conference Tuesday, Puigdemont said he was not in Belgium to claim asylum or to escape justice but to put the "Catalan problem at the heart of the European Union." He said that he would return to Spain when he had "guarantees" of a "fair and just treatment" there.
The summons noted that this is only the initial phase of the proceedings and is not a judicial decision on whether to charge the defendants. It is unclear whether Puigdemont and his colleagues will abide by the summons, however. If they do not, they could face arrest.
Spain's Supreme Court began processing rebellion and sedition charges against the speaker of the Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell, and five other parliamentary members on Tuesday.