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Ousted Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont said he does not plan to avoid legal proceedings launched by Spanish prosecutors on Monday but that he has no plans to return to Spain until he is “given guarantees” that he will receive fair treatment.
Speaking at a packed press conference in Brussels today, he said that he and the former ministers of the Catalan government with whom he had traveled to the Belgian capital would return to Spain immediately if they were guaranteed a “fair” and “independent” trial with “a separation of powers.”
Puigdemont, who continues to consider himself the premier of the Catalan executive despite his dismissal under the application of Article 155 by Spain’s central government, said he had traveled to Brussels with his colleagues “to make clear the politicization of Spanish justice.”
“I am not here [in Belgium] to apply for political asylum, we are here to act with liberty and security,” said Puigdemont, speaking of the “threat” of 30 years in prison after Spanish state prosecutors filed formal accusations of rebellion, sedition and misuse of funds against the former premier, his ministers and members of the speakers committee of the Catalan parliament.
“The other part of the government, headed by [former] deputy premier [Oriol Junqueras] will remain in Catalonia as legitimate members of the Catalan government,” said Puigdemont.
“We have never abandoned the government. More than that, we will continue working,” he added, calling on the Catalan people to prepare “for a long road ahead.”
At the press conference, during which he spoke in Catalan, French and Spanish, the former premier also confirmed that his PDeCAT party would run in the December 21 election called by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. “It’s a challenge we are going to accept,” he said.
He said added that he would respect the results and called on Madrid to do the same.
Puigdemont insisted that the state that had called elections wanted to “put him in jail” for completing his electoral program. “We have a strictly European agenda here,” he said of his visit to Belgium. “We have had no other type of contact.”
During the press conference, Puigdemont was joined by seven members of his former cabinet who have also traveled to Brussels.
Here's our full story on the judge's order today to send eight former members of the Catalan government to jail.
The former officials will not be sent to Soto del Real penitentiary, as was initially expected. The Interior Ministry has informed the Audiencia Nacional that the group of eight will be distributed among five different prisons, all of them in the Madrid region. These are Alcalá de Henares (Madrid I), Estremera (Madrid VII), Valdemoro (Madrid III) Navalcarnero (Madrid IV and Aranjuez (Madrid VI).
These are the former Catalan officials who will be held in pre-trial detention: left to right, starting with the top row, Oriol Junqueras, Meritxell Borràs, Raül Romeva, Dolors Bassa, Josep Rull, Carles Mundó, Jordi Turull, Joaquim Forn. The last one,Santi Vila, can avoid prison if he posts bail set at €50,000.
There are expressions of dismay and tearful faces on display among supporters of Catalan independence who have gathered outside the Audiencia Nacional in Madrid. The group began singing Els Segadors, the official anthem of Catalonia, and chanting “llibertat” (freedom). But mostly there is silence, Iñigo Domínguez reports.
To achieve independence for Catalonia, the accused, according to the judge, “made use of the population encourage acts of public insurrection, disobedience and collective resistance to the legitimate authority of the state, occupying to that effect highways, streets and public buildings and subjecting officers of the law to incessant harassment.”