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Top Catalan Lawmaker Leaves Jail After Posting Bail

Ex-speaker of the Catalonia parliament Carme Forcadell, front right, arrives at the Spain's Supreme Court in Madrid, Nov. 9, 2017.
Ex-speaker of the Catalonia parliament Carme Forcadell, front right, arrives at the Spain's Supreme Court in Madrid, Nov. 9, 2017.

A top lawmaker from Catalonia has left a prison near Madrid after supporters posted her bail of $175,000.

Carme Forcadell, the former Catalan parliament’s speaker, spent one night in jail as part of Spain’s investigation into the rebellion stemming from Catalonia’s controversial independence drive.

As a condition of Forcadell’s release Friday, a judge withdrew her passport and ordered her to stay in Spain. She also is required to check in at a court in Catalonia each week and to appear before the Supreme Court if summoned.

Forcadell left the prison without speaking to reporters. She later tweeted, "We're going back home … with an easy conscience for having acted correctly: to guarantee freedom of expression in [the Catalan] Parliament, headquarters of the national sovereignty.''

Forcadell is being investigated along with five other Catalan lawmakers for their role in Catalonia’s parliament declaring independence from Spain on October 27. The other lawmakers were granted $29,000 bail and avoided spending a night in jail.

Acting judge Pablo Llarena said his decision to grant bail was made after they either "renounced all future political activity" or agreed to respect the law, according to a court document.

Forcadell testified Thursday that the independence vote was "declarative and symbolic" — an apparent step to minimize liability if she is charged with disobeying the Constitutional Court.

Forcadell's spokesman said as Catalan parliamentary speaker she did not "have the freedom to stop a vote" in the chamber on independence.

Within hours of the parliamentary vote, the Madrid government disbanded the Catalonian parliament and removed its president, calling for new elections to be held on December 21.

The independence declaration was annulled this week by Spain’s Constitutional Court, which initially had suspended the declaration last month.

Ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and four of his ministers have fled to Belgium, where they are challenging Spain's arrest and extradition orders.

Eight of Puigdemont's former ministers and two activists were jailed while the Spanish court considers possible charges of rebellion against them.

Catalan lawmakers argued they had a mandate to split from Spain after an October 1 referendum in which 90 percent of voters backed succession. However, less than half the electorate took part in the vote, which was denounced as illegal by Madrid.

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