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Freed Catalan president will return to Brussels on Monday

Puigdemont (r) while still in office in Barcelona. © European Parliament

Carles Puigdemont, the deposed president of the autonomous region of Catalonia in Spain, will return to Belgium on Monday after being freed by a court in Sardinia.

Puigdemont is wanted by the justice authorities in Spain for organising an illegal independence referendum in Catalonia. In 2017 he fled to Brussels, where his extradition has been refused.

On Thursday he landed in Alghero, a city on Sardinia where there is a strong Catalan culture, and was immediately arrested. However when he was brought before a judge, he was set free until the question of the legality of the extradition was decided. He was ordered not to leave Sardinia.

However he now plans to breach that order and travel to Belgium tomorrow, after which he will return to Sardinia for a hearing in court. If delivered to Spain, he faces a sentence of 25 years for the crimes charged against him.

Nine other Catalan politicians who took part in arranging the referendum did not go into exile, and were sentenced in 2019 to terms of between nine and 13 years. Later those sentences were quashed by order of Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez.

Not included in the clemency order, however, were Puigdemont and four other politicians who fled Spanish justice at the same time.

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