Thursday 21 June 2018

Catalan ex-president to risk arrest with proposed trip to Denmark

Carles Puigdemont will attend a debate in Copenhagen entitled “Catalonia and Europe at a Crossroads for Democracy”.

Mr Puigdemont wants to take up his old job as Catalan president (AP)
Mr Puigdemont wants to take up his old job as Catalan president (AP)

By Associated Press Reporters

Catalonia’s fugitive former president, who is being sought by Spain over a foiled secession bid, will risk arrest by travelling to Denmark next week for a university debate.

Carles Puigdemont plans to make the trip from Belgium to Copenhagen as he tries to get his old job back and step up pressure on Spanish authorities, which have said that a fugitive abroad cannot be the Catalan regional president.

The University of Copenhagen announced a debate for Monday in the Danish capital on “Catalonia and Europe at a Crossroads for Democracy”. Janni Brixen, a media officer with the university’s Faculty of Social Science, said Mr Puigdemont would attend “in person”.

A spokeswoman for Mr Puigdemont’s party also confirmed that he was planning to travel to Copenhagen and attend the debate “representing the legitimate government of Catalonia”.

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Demonstrations continue outside the Catalan parliament (AP)

Mr Puigdemont is being investigated for possible rebellion, sedition and embezzlement linked to a unilateral declaration of independence last autumn in the north-eastern Spanish region of Catalonia.

A Spanish Supreme Court judge dropped an extradition request to Belgium in early December after it became clear that authorities in Brussels would probably agree to send him back, but that they would be restricting the crimes that he could be judged for in Spain.

The separatist politician still faces detention if he returns to Spain, but is free to travel elsewhere unless the judge re-activates European and international arrest warrants against him.

Mr Puigdemont is seeking to be back in charge of affairs in Catalonia, even if it is from self-imposed exile in Belgium.

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Mr Puigdemont risks arrest (AP)

“If I have to choose between being an inmate or a president, I’d rather be a president, even from afar,” he told Catalonia’s public radio on Friday.

“At least now I can do things that I wouldn’t be able to do in prison,” he said, referring to the help that “new technologies” could provide.

The October secession attempt led Spanish central authorities to take direct control of the north-eastern region, disband the Catalan cabinet and call an early regional election.

Results failed to break the political deadlock, granting separatists a slim parliamentary majority that in theory would allow them to form government. But with ousted Catalan Cabinet members under investigation, jailed or in Belgium and facing arrest if they return home, the regional parliament must decide by the end of January whether to permit Mr Puigdemont’s re-election.

Press Association

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