Catalan Independence: Sacked Leader Puigdemont 'Not Seeking Asylum'
Albanian Daily News
Published October 31, 2017
Catalonia's sacked President Carles Puigdemont says he has not travelled to Belgium to seek asylum.
He has appeared in public in Brussels with several colleagues after declaring independence from Spain last week.
Spain's central government has taken direct control of Catalonia and sacked officials, following the region's banned independence referendum.
Mr Puigdemont said he was not trying to escape justice but wanted to be able to speak freely.
He was speaking at a press conference as Spain's constitutional court suspended the declaration of independence made by the Catalan leader on Friday.
Mr Puigdemont also said he would accept the result of snap Catalonia elections on 21 December, which were called by Spain's central government after it invoked Article 155 of the constitution, temporarily suspending the region's autonomy.
The move will see as many as 150 of the region's top officials replaced.
"I want a clear commitment from the state. Will the state respect the results that could give separatist forces a majority?" Mr Puigdemont asked reporters.
The Spanish government has previously said he was welcome to take part in the fresh polls.
The ousted Catalan leader did not clarify how long he would stay in Belgium, but said he would return once he was given "guarantees" by the Spanish government.
He said moves by the Spanish chief prosecutor to charge him and a number of other cabinet members with offences that carry up to 30 years in prison showed the extent of the central authorities' aggression.
Puigdemont: The man who wants to break up Spain
Earlier comments from a lawyer hired by Mr Puigdemont in Brussels had fuelled speculation that he was investigating asylum processes there.
When asked on Flemish public radio whether he was seeking asylum, Paul Bekaert said: "We're keeping all options open - nothing has been decided."
Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis has expressed scepticism about an asylum bid, saying Mr Puigdemont was yet to be charged and therefore still "free to move around".
But he added: "We believe that among EU member states, there is a level of reciprocal trust over the fact that we are states governed by the rule of law."
Five of Mr Puigdemont's sacked ministers have joined him in Belgium:
Meritxell Serret, agriculture minister
Antoni Comín, health minister
Dolors Bassa, labour minister
Meritxell Borrás, governance minister
Joaquim Forn, interior minister
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said Mr Puigdemont would be "treated like any other European citizen" .
"Mr Puigdemont has the same rights and responsibilities as any European citizen - no more, no less," he said.
"Freedom of movement within the Schengen zone allows him to be in Belgium without any other formalities."