Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Sacked Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont rejects Spanish court summons

Sacked Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont’s lawyer confirmed Wednesday that his client will spurn a Madrid court summons to be grilled about alleged rebellion and sedition in his quest for independence.

“He will not go to Madrid and I have suggested that he be questioned here in Belgium,” Belgian lawyer Paul Bekaert told Spanish television channel TV3.

Puigdemont, currently in Brussels, and 13 other members of his dismissed Catalan cabinet were told late Tuesday to be at Spain’s top criminal court on Thursday and Friday.

The court wants to question them in an investigation over Catalonia’s independence drive, which has plunged Spain into its biggest crisis in decades.

On Monday, Spain’s chief prosecutor said he was seeking charges of rebellion — punishable by up to 30 years behind bars — sedition and misuse of public funds.

The hearing by the National Court, which deals with major criminal cases, could see the 14 formally charged.

Oriol Junqueras, Puigdemont’s deputy, will attend, a spokesman for his party said. But it was unclear if others would do too.

Bekaert, a Belgian lawyer hired by Puigdemont, told Dutch broadcaster NOS late Tuesday that if his new client travelled to Spain there is a “good chance that he would be detained”.

Bekaert also told Flemish-language Belgian TV channel VTM that he did not foresee Puigdemont returning “within the coming weeks”.

– ‘Legitimate’ –

If Puigdemont, 54, and the others fail to appear before the court, Spanish prosecutors could order their arrest. An international warrant could follow if they are abroad.

On Tuesday Puigdemont told a packed news conference in Brussels — before the court summons was announced — that he would not return until he had guarantees that legal proceedings would be impartial.

He insisted his cabinet remained “legitimate” despite having been dismissed by Madrid on Friday and said he was in Brussels “for safety purposes and freedom”.

“We want to denounce the politicisation of the Spanish justice system… and to explain to the world the Spanish state’s serious democratic deficiencies,” he said.

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