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Catalan leader slams ‘worst attack since Franco’

Protesters in Barcelona as night fell
Image: Protesters in Barcelona as night fell

Madrid’s moves to take back some powers from Catalonia are the “worst attack since the dictatorship of Franco”.

The Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont was reacting to the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s announcement that he has approved implementing the previously unused Article 155 of the country’s constitution to assume control of the region in a bid to thwart secession attempts.

:: What invoking Article 155 means for Catalonia

Mr Puigdemont said Mr Rajoy had set out to “humiliate” Catalonia in an “attack on democracy”.

He said removing powers from Catalonia was the “worst attack against the institutions and the people of Catalonia since the military dictatorship of Francisco Franco”.

Carles Puigdemont attacked Mr Rajoy's move
Image: Carles Puigdemont attacked Mr Rajoy’s move

He added: “I ask the parliament to meet in a plenary session during which we, the representatives of the citizens’ sovereignty, will be able to decide over this attempt to liquidate our government and our democracy and act in consequence.”

Mr Rajoy said he wants the senate to give him permission to dissolve the regional government in Barcelona and call early elections.

He announced the measures to take over the regional cabinet’s functions after a crisis meeting of his own cabinet in the wake of the 1 October independence referendum deemed illegal by Madrid.

Mariano Rajoy
Image: Mariano Rajoy

Under his plans, the powers of Catalan officials would be transferred to the Spanish government – but he stressed he did not want to use them to rule Catalonia directly.

About 90% of Catalans who voted in the referendum backed breaking away from Spain, but only 40% of eligible voters cast a ballot, with many pro-union supporters declining to vote.

The PM’s move, aimed at blocking the independence movement, has sparked anger among separatists.

Spain's cabinet meets
Image: Spain’s cabinet meets

Carme Forcade, the speaker of the Catalan parliament, said the move by Madrid was a “coup and an “attack on democracy”.

She went on: “Prime Minister Rajoy wants the parliament of Catalonia to stop being a democratic parliament, and we will not allow this to happen.

“This is why we want to send to the citizens of this country a message of firmness and hope. We commit today, after the most serious attack against the Catalan institutions since they were restored, to the defence of the sovereignty of the parliament of Catalonia.”

Hundreds of thousands joined protests
Image: Hundreds of thousands joined protests

On the streets of Barcelona, people banged pots and pans and drivers beeped their horns. By Saturday evening tens of thousands of people had turned out on the streets to demonstrate. There have been no reports of violence.

Catalonia’s administration currently runs its own policing, education and healthcare.

Mr Rajoy said he was concerned about the financial impact if Catalonia broke away, and claimed the latest figures on the economy were “worrying”.

A number of companies have already announced plans to move some or all of their operations out of the northeast region.

A man with a Catalan separatist flag lies on the ground during a protest in Barcelona

Article 155 allows central authorities to intervene when one of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions fails to comply with the law.

Autonomy is a hugely sensitive issue in Catalonia, which saw its powers taken away under Spain’s military dictatorship.

Home to 7.5 million people, the region fiercely defends its own language and culture.

People wave Catalan separatist flags in Barcelona
Image: People wave Catalan separatist flags in Barcelona

Meanwhile, King Felipe has said Catalonia “is and will remain an essential part of 21st century Spain”.

In an unusually emotional speech at a prize-giving ceremony, he said the Spanish government would resolve the fight over Catalonia’s bid for independence through “legitimate democratic institutions”.

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    California ‘torture parents’ plead not guilty

    Louise and David Turpin appear in court for her arraignment in Riverside
    Image: David and Louise Turpin face 94 years in prison if convicted of the alleged torture and abuse

    The parents of 13 children have appeared in court accused of abusing and starving them and chaining them to their beds in their squalid California home.

    David Allen Turpin, 57, and his wife Louise Anna Turpin, 49, their hands and legs shackled, appeared calm as they pleaded not guilty on Thursday to multiple charges of abuse, torture and imprisonment.

    The pair were arrested on Sunday after their 17-year-old daughter jumped out of a window at their home in Perris, about 70 miles east of Los Angeles, and used a mobile phone to call police.

    She had been planning the escape with one of her sisters for two years, but the sibling, who also managed to flee the house with her, became frightened and returned to the property.

    Louise and David Turpin appear in court for her arraignment in Riverside
    Image: Louise Turpin and her husband David reject the allegations

    Prosecutors say the alleged abuse by the Turpins started many years ago when the family lived in Texas, and intensified over time as they relocated to Murrieta, California, in 2010, before moving to their current family home in 2014.

    In a news conference, Riverside County district attorney Mike Hestrin revealed more information about the charges, along with harrowing details of the alleged abuse, describing it as a case of “human depravity”.

    :: A happy family? Photos of chained siblings

    The children, aged between two and 29, were held captive at home and denied basic freedoms.

    The only thing they were allowed to do was to write in their journals – hundreds of which are being reviewed for evidence.

    They were only allowed to shower once a year, it is claimed, and if they ever washed their hands above their wrists they would be accused of playing with the water and punished.

    Louise and David Turpin appear in court for her arraignment in Riverside
    Image: David Turpin is also charged with committing a lewd act on a child under 14

    The district attorney described the alleged torture as “severe, emotional, physical abuse”, and revealed that at least one of the children had once been hogtied.

    “The victims said as a punishment they would be tied up with ropes but when they were able to escape, their parents began using chains and padlocks,” he said.

    Other punishments included “frequent beatings” and “strangulation”.

    Mr Hestrin said the children would be chained up for weeks, or even months at a time, and would not be freed to go to the toilet.

    The prosecution claims when they were not chained up, they were kept in separate rooms and fed very little and on a schedule.

    It is alleged the mother and father would buy food for themselves but not give any of it to their sons and daughters.

    Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin announces charges against David Turpin and Louise Turpin...
    Image: Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin announced the charges

    “They would buy food, including pies, apple pies, pumpkin pies, leave it on the counter. let the children look at it but not eat the food,” said Mr Hestrin.

    :: Captive siblings: Police reveal how girl escaped

    Its is alleged that when the family lived in Texas the parents at one point lived apart from most of their children and would drop off food from time to time.

    Mr Hestrin said the children had been starved so much they were malnourished, their growth was stunted and their muscles deteriorating.

    The eldest, a 29-year-old woman, weighed just over five-and-a-half stone (82lbs), and a 12-year-old appeared to be the size of an average seven-year-old.

    Mr Hestrin said there had been no torture charge filed in relation to the two-year-old because the toddler appeared to be “getting enough food”.

    None of the victims had seen a doctor in more than four years, and none of them had ever seen a dentist, according to the district attorney.

    The Turpin family
    Image: The Turpin family

    “They were not allowed to have toys, although there were many toys found in the house that were in their original package and had never been opened,” he said.

    The victims lacked a basic knowledge of life. Many of the children did not know what a police officer was, he continued.

    When the 17-year-old was asked if there was any medication or pills in the home, she did not know what they were.

    The parents turned their home into a private school called Sandcastle Day School, where the father was listed as the principal and its six pupils were the couple’s younger children.

    However, at least one of the older boys attended college classes, Mr Hestrin said, but his mother would accompany him, wait outside and take him home once his class had finished.

    Mr Hestrin said the entire family would sleep during the day, going to bed at around 4am or 5am, and be up all night.

    When officers raided the home they found one of the siblings, a 22-year-old, chained to a bed and evidence suggesting two others – aged 11 and 13, had been freed moments before their arrival.

    David Turpin and Louise Turpin appear in court for their arraignment in Riversid
    Image: The couple were arrested on Sunday

    The couple were charged with 12 counts of torture, 12 of false imprisonment, six of child abuse and six of abuse of a dependant adult.

    David Turpin was also charged with performing a lewd act on a child, a girl, under the age of 14.

    When asked to elaborate on the lewd act charge, Mr Hestrin said: “We are alleging that David Turpin touched one of the victims in a lewd way by using force or fear.”

    The parents – who were married in 1985 in Pearlsburg, Virginia, when he was 23 years old and she was 16 – could each face 94 years in jail if found guilty.

    “A case like that sticks with you and haunts you,” Mr Hestrin said.

    More from California

    • Dogs found in Turpin ‘torture home’ to be raffled

    • Could there be a second Hollywood sign?

    • The normal house and family cars that hid a horrible secret

    • Captive siblings: Police reveal how girl escaped

    • A happy family? Photos add to mystery after siblings found chained to beds

    • Adults and children found chained to their beds in a US home

    “Sometimes in this business you are faced with human depravity, and that’s what we have here.”

    The Turpins are next due in court on 23 February.

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