By CIARAN GILES and ARITZ PARA
MADRID (AP) — Catalonia’s political leaders plan to bring a legal challenge to prevent the Spanish government from removing them from office and taking over running the region to stop its push for independence, a regional spokesman said Tuesday.
Appeals will be lodged in Spain’s Constitutional and Supreme courts against Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s decision to sack Catalonia’s government and curtail the regional parliament’s powers, regional government spokesman Jordi Turull said.
If the regional government is not successful in Spanish courts, it will pursue the case in international courts, Turull said.
Spain’s Senate is expected to approve Rajoy’s plans on Friday, triggering previously untapped constitutional powers to act against Catalan leaders accused of violating the law by holding a secession referendum and preparing to declare independence.
“We are going to respond in a very solid way,” Turull said at the end of the regional government’s weekly cabinet meeting. “We will exhaust all internal ways in order to turn to the international justice if needed.”
Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont has a last chance this week to defend his case before Senate members, and some speculate he may do so Thursday or Friday — when he could cross paths with Rajoy.
But Puigdemont could pull a surprise by instead attending a meeting at the regional parliament in Barcelona Thursday, where he could declare independence.
There’s also speculation that Puigdemont may alternatively call an early regional election and avoid central government intervention.
Calling such an election would indicate that Catalonia was willing to return to the fold and act under Spanish laws, rather than flout them by declaring independence.
Justice Minister Rafael Catala said Tuesday that Puigdemont must state he is willing to abide by Spanish laws and also clarify if he declared independence in an ambiguous speech he gave Oct. 10. The speech followed a banned referendum that the Catalan leader said gave him a mandate to secede.
More details about the effect the political crisis is having on Catalonia emerged Tuesday when Caixabank, Spain’s third-largest bank, reported it suffered a “moderate” but temporary run on deposits due to the crisis over the region’s independence bid.
The bank transferred its headquarters from Catalonia to the Valencia region on Oct. 6.
Presenting the company’s earnings for the first time in the city of Valencia, CEO Gonzalo Gortazar declined to give details on the value of the withdrawn deposits, but said the losses had “been reversed” and the bank continued to grow.
Gortazar said the headquarters relocation was definitive. Local media reports quoted him as saying the bank does not currently plan to move any jobs out of Catalonia.
A second bank, Sabadell, and more than a thousand other companies have moved their official bases out of Catalonia to ensure they could continue operating under European Union laws if Catalonia breaks away from Spain.
Parra contributed from Barcelona, Spain. Associated Press writer Barry Hatton in Lisbon, Portugal contributed to this report.