Advertisement

Ex-Catalan president says he'll return to Spain if guaranteed fair trial

By
Sara Shayanian
Former Catalonia President Carles Puigdemont arrives at a press club in Brussels, Belgium, on Tuesday -- ousted from his region over a failed bid for independence. Photo by Stephanie Lecoco/EPA
Former Catalonia President Carles Puigdemont arrives at a press club in Brussels, Belgium, on Tuesday -- ousted from his region over a failed bid for independence. Photo by Stephanie Lecoco/EPA

Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium amid the ongoing fight with Spain, has said he will accept snap election results and will return to Spain for a fair trial.

The announcement came after the deposed Catalonia leader and several members of his cabinet members fled to Brussels on Tuesday when Spain's top prosecutor promised to seek rebellion charges over their bid for independence.

Advertisement

Puigdemont also said he will accept the results of new elections -- set for Dec. 21 -- ordered by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy under authority of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution.

"We accept these elections as a democratic challenge ... If the Spanish state wants to organize a plebiscite to legitimize Article 155 and its policies, we will accept it and respond to it," Puigdemont said from Brussels.

RELATED Catalan leader in Belgium to make independence case to EU

The article, or "nuclear option," allows Madrid power to sack members of semi-autonomous regions like Catalonia and hold replacement elections.

The ex-Catalan president noted, however, that he would remain in Brussels until he gets a "fair trial."

Asked when he would return, Puigdemont said, "It depends. I need guarantees."

Advertisement
RELATED Ex-Catalan president takes refuge in Belgium under threat of charges

Puigdemont could face charges of sedition, rebellion for Catalonia's unilateral declaration of independence and misuse of public funds. A rebellion conviction carries a sentence of up to 30 years in prison.

He, along with 13 members of his government, have been summoned to appear at Spain's High Court on Thursday and Friday.

Although the leaders have not yet been formally charged, the High Court judge overseeing the case said Puigdemont will have to pay a combined bond of nearly $7.2 million -- the same amount of money spent on what Madrid called an illegal referendum. If that sum is not paid in three days, their assets could be seized indefinitely.

RELATED Thousands attend Barcelona rally for unity in Spain

A spokesperson for the Spanish government dismissed the notion that Madrid's recent moves are a complete takeover.

"We are not here to occupy the administration, but to oversee a return to normality as soon as possible," the spokesperson said. "We intend to have minimal involvement. The transition has been very smooth."

RELATED Spain officially takes over Catalan, fires leaders

Latest Headlines