A new life in Switzerland for Catalan separatist Marta Rovira

Member of Catalonia's parliament Marta Rovira sits next to yellow ribbons placed on empty seats reserved for the jailed Catalan separatist leaders Oriol Junqueras and Jordi Sanchez at the Catalonia's parliament before a session on March 1, 2018 in Barcelona. 

Catalan separatist parties are considering appointing jailed civil society leader Jordi Sanchez as regional president as their negotiations to try and find a suitable candidate draw to a close, a lawmaker said.
These parties -- which form an absolute majority in the Catalan parliament -- have been negotiating for weeks over who to pick as candidate for the regional presidency as Catalonia's sacked leader Carles Puigdemont is in self-exile in Belgium.

 / AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE

Catalan separatist Marta Rovira, who fled Spain last month to escape charges over the region’s breakaway bid, said in an interview published Thursday she planned to settle in Switzerland for good.

“This is a long-term decision,” Rovira told Swiss daily Le Temps in an interview published on its website.

“I want to rebuild my life here with my family, and to place myself under the protection of Switzerland,” she said, adding though that, at this stage, she did not see the need to seek asylum.

The interview, conducted in the Geneva offices of Rovira’s lawyer, confirmed reports that she had made her way to Switzerland after announcing in March she was taking “the road to exile”.

Rovira, who is the deputy leader of the leftwing separatist ERC party, is one of seven pro-independence leaders who have fled abroad to avoid facing serious charges over their role in Catalonia’s independence push in October 2017.

Nine others, including ERC president Oriol Junqueras, are in prison.

Catalonia’s pro-independence presidential candidate Jordi Sanchez also remains in jail, after Spain’s Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a request for him to be released and sworn in as regional head.

Rovira herself was placed under judicial control in February, but the judge stopped short of putting her behind bars for the duration of an ongoing probe into charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.

“I came to Switzerland to protect myself against political persecution… If I were still in Spain, I would be behind bars right now,” she said.

She pointed out that all of the pro-independence leaders who, like her, were summoned by the Supreme Court in Madrid on March 23rd, were now in jail.

Asked about criticism that her departure had weakened the independence movement, Rovira insisted that she had had no choice.

“I could not risk spending 20 to 30 years in prison for offences I have not committed, when my daughter is barely seven years old,” she said.

“When I was in Barcelona, I was living in an internal prison. I was constantly being followed by police in the street… I could no longer express my political views openly for fear of facing unfounded criminal charges.”

“My daughter also suffered… She worried about me,” she said, insisting that “today, I am much more useful since I am free.”

Catalonia has been in political limbo since Spain’s conservative central government imposed direct rule on the region after it unilaterally declared independence in October.

Fresh regional elections will be triggered if a new leader is not elected by May 22nd.

Asked what the separatists’ main goal was, Rovira told Le Temps they wanted to “reestablish the foundations for the rule of law, freedom of expression, the right to demonstrate…, to reestablish the foundations for democracy.”

“We are being attacked on all sides, but we are resisting. I think the future will show we were in the right.”