Ousted Catalonia leader Puigdemont ‘not seeking asylum’

Ousted Catalonia leader Puigdemont ‘not seeking asylum’

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BRUSSELS: Deposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has said his party will stand in a December 21 snap poll called by the central government in Madrid for Catalonia.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Puigdemont said he will respect the outcome of the election, but urged Spanish authorities to do the same.

The sacked regional president arrived at Brussels Press Club for a news conference on Tuesday, amid speculation he and his ministers would seek political asylum in Belgium, which he said was not their intent.

“On Friday, after the declaration of independence, we assumed dialogue was impossible,” Puigdemont said in Catalan, adding that his government tried to engage in talks since the dispute began.

The Spanish government dismissed the Catalan regional leadership on Saturday after lawmakers approved the application of Article 155 of the Constitution, which allowed Madrid to assume control of Catalonia.

Puigdemont said he and his government were the “legitimate” representatives of the Catalan people.

The former Catalan government and select members of the parliament were charged by the Spanish prosecutor with sedition, rebellion, among other charges, on Monday.

The charges stem from the political process during which Puigdemont declared Catalonia an independent nation after a disputed October 1 referendum on secession.

The Catalan government said 90 percent of voters opted for independence, though turnout was less than 50 percent, in part due to a crackdown by Spanish police.

The charges could result in up to 30 years in prison and “confirm the extreme aggressiveness” of the Spanish government against the Catalan government and parliament, Puigdemont said.

Puigdemont and five former ministers of the regional Catalan government appeared yesterday in the Belgian capital, to the surprise of many.

The dismissed politicians were expected to apply for political asylum, though Puigdemont said that was not his intent.

Puigdemont detailed goals his dismissed government would pursue from Belgium: “A part of the [the Catalan government] has moved to Brussels to make evident the Catalan problem in the heart of Europe,” he continued.

Puigdemont went on to said the government would support efforts to avoid the destruction of Catalan institutions that could result from the application of Article 155, and that his party, the Catalan Democratic Party, would participate in the December 21 regional elections called by the Spanish government.

Puigdemont called for Europe to respond to the Catalan crisis, saying the “case of Catalonia is the case of the values on which Europe is based”.

Before the news conference began, Mina Andreeva, the spokesperson for the European Commission, said in a statement the European Union’s executive body has not remained in contact with Puigdemont.

Andreeva stated that the commission’s stance that the question of Catalonia’s independence is an internal Spanish matter “has not changed”.__Al Jazeera

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