Ousted Catalan leader Puigdemont – in Belgium – urges separatists to unite

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DEPOSED: Carles Puigdemont

DEPOSED Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has called on separatist groups to unite ahead of elections in the region on December 21, 2017.

In a tweet from Belgium he said: “It’s the moment for all democrats to unite. For Cataluña, for the freedom of political prisoners and for the Republic.”

He has released a manifesto and called for an online collection of signatures which currently stands at 81,000.

The website denounces the “judicial persecution and personal lynching” instigated by “Spanish nationalism” and that the ex-councillors and the members of the parliamentary bureau are “today persecuted for the political ideas they defend” and not for their belonging to one or another party.

Last month Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy invoked constitutional powers to reassert the national government’s authority over Cataluña and sack Puigdemont and his government. 

Since then, eight politicians and two activists have been jailed pending trial, and arrest warrants have been issued for Puigdemont and four other, who fled to Belgium via France.

On Friday Spanish National Court judge Carmen Lamela issued an European Arrest Warrant for the group still in Brussels. The Belgian prosecutor’s office is examing the warrant “as soon as possible and in conformity with the law.” 

Puigdemont, speaking on television in Belgium, said he will cooperate with the authorities on the arrest warrant. 

“I won’t flee justice; I’m willing to submit to justice, but to real justice.

“The Spanish courts can’t guarantee a fair and independent sentence that will be free of the enormous weight and influence of politics.”

“You mustn’t forget that we’re the legitimate government.”

Under European arrest warrant procedures, individuals are detained and brought before judges within 24 hours. A court then has 15 days to decide whether to execute the arrest order, according to the Belgian Justice Ministry.

Including time for possible appeals, a final decision must be taken with three months and Puigdemont, in this case, would then have to be surrendered to Spain within 10 days.

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