Former Prime Minister of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont said on Wednesday that he wanted to return “as quickly as possible” to Spain, but that he was the target of political prosecution by Madrid. Speaking at a meeting with the press, he said he would remain in Belgium and would not return to Spain unless he received guarantees from the Spanish State. He also said that the withdrawal of the European arrest warrant against him and four of his ex-ministers by Spain’s Supreme Court “shows that the Spanish Government is afraid of Belgian justice”.
The European arrest warrant against Puigdemont and former ministers Carla Ponsati, Antonio Comín, Lluís Puig and Meritxelle Serret was withdrawn on Tuesday, but the five are still wanted in Spain for embezzlement, insubordination, rebellion, misappropriation of public funds, corruption and sedition. They face up to 30 years in prison.
The five former Catalan leaders each denounced the proceedings initiated against them by the Spanish authorities. “These political proceedings violate European laws. They are an abuse of European laws and the Spanish Government will have to answer for that,” Ponsati said. “It’s a good day for us, a bad one for the Spanish government,” another ex-minister added.
The five former leaders wondered why their European arrest warrants had been withdrawn while many of their colleagues remained in prison in Spain on the same charges. For Puigdemont, the Spanish Government was afraid of Belgian justice, and feared that it would rule that there were insufficient grounds to execute the arrest warrant.
“Spain did not want to remain under international surveillance” with regard to its judicial practices and the elections to be held in Catalonia on 21 December, the deposed prime minister said. “We are not afraid of justice and democracy. The Spanish State is.”
The five are candidates for the 21 December elections. Since a Spanish arrest warrant still hangs over them, they are campaigning for those elections from Belgium. “If elected, we’ll have to envisage going back,” Puigdemont admitted. However, “we do not know whether that will be possible.”
The former Catalan Prime Minister wants guarantees from Spain. “Will the election results be respected?” he wondered. He is also asking for an end to central government tutelage over Catalonia.
The Catalan Government had declared Catalonia independent on 27 October, prompting Madrid to depose it and suspend the region’s autonomy, on the same day, using Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution.
Puigdemont said Wednesday that he wished to remain in the European capital, Brussels, to “better defend my rights”. He said he did not know whether he could travel elsewhere in Europe.