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

Patrice Gainsbourg
Outubro 31, 2017

Speaking to reporters, Mr Puigdemont also said he would accept the challenge of regional elections called for December 21 "with all our strength" and that Catalan nationalists would vote.

A Belgian lawyer who specialises in asylum issues confirmed that Puigdemont had designated him as his legal representative.

Puigdemont's press conference came as Spain's constitutional court suspended Friday's declaration of independence by the Catalan parliament, and the supreme court said it had begun proceedings against Catalonian parliamentary officials over their role in the independence referendum.

He walked into the building past a few protesters with Spanish national flags and pro-unity signs, including ones that that said "Rule of Law" and "Not in my Name".

Belgium allows asylum requests by citizens of other European Union nations, and in the past, some Basque separatists weren't extradited to Spain while they sought asylum, causing years of friction.

If found guilty of rebellion, Mr Puigdemont could face a jail term of up to 30 years.

Belgium's prime minister Charles Michel reproached his minister for throwing "fuel on the fire" and said asylum for the Catalans was not on the agenda.

Polícia matou 4224 pessoas e teve 437 agentes mortos em 2016
Os recursos destinados ao Fundo Nacional de Segurança Pública caíram 30,8% e os do Fundo Nacional Antidrogas, 64,8%. Dessas mortes por intervenção policial na Paraíba, 16 foram da Polícia Militar e seis são da Polícia Civil em 2016.

Catalonia, a prosperous region with its own language and culture, triggered Spain's biggest crisis for decades by holding an independence referendum on October 1, which Spanish courts called illegal. Separately, Spain's civil guard police force searched the headquarters of Catalonia's regional police.

One member of the dismissed government, Mr Josep Rull, tweeted a photo of himself "at the office" doing his job as a regional minister.

The Catalan government said that of the 43% of potential voters who took part, 90% were in favour of independence.

Late on Friday, the Spanish Senate gave Madrid the power to impose direct rule on Catalonia under Article 155 of the Constitution, the first time this so-called "nuclear option" has been applied. Puigdemont and the region's entire parliament was sacked.

Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said that the central government in Madrid would be surprised if Puigdemont sought asylum in Belgium and were granted protection there.

What's next for Catalan autonomy?

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