Catalonia’s deposed president just refused to go to court to face rebellion charges

Deposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont.

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Deposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont.
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Thomson Reuters

    Carles Puigdemont failed to turn up to court on Thursday morning. He was summoned to a Spanish national court to answer to criminal charges. Puigdemont is in Brussels. His lawyer says the leader can answer to charges there. Spain could, if it wants, issue an international warrant for Puigdemont’s arrest.

Catalonia’s deposed president has refused to go to court to answer to potential rebellion charges over Catalan independence.

Carles Puigdemont, who was sacked by the Spanish government last week, failed to turn up at a court in Madrid after being ordered to attend by a judge.

Puigdemont, Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras, and 12 other Catalan ministers were called to appear at the Audiencia Nacional, or the Spanish national court, at 9 a.m. local time (8 a.m. GMT/4 a.m. EDT), Catalan newspaper El Periódico reported.

Junqueras and eight other deputies who were summoned showed up on Thursday morning, the BBC reported.

Spanish Attorney General José Manuel Maza filed complaints against the 14 politicians on Monday. They face charges including rebellion, sedition, and embezzlement.

Puigdemont fled to Brussels on Monday with five of his cabinet ministers shortly after Maza filed the complaints.

Puigdemont in Brussels on Tuesday.

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Puigdemont in Brussels on Tuesday.
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Eric Vidal/Reuters

On Wednesday, Puigdemont’s lawyer Paul Bekaert said Puigdemont was unlikely to return to Spain “in the next few weeks,” and suggested that his client be questioned in Belgium instead.

He told the Associated Press that Puigdemont “is not going to Madrid and I suggested that they question him here in Belgium. It is possible.

“He can be questioned here, there are provisions in the law.”

He also told Belgium’s VTM news network, according to the Associated Press: “As things look now, cannot see him going back [to Spain] in the next few weeks.”

Spain could put out an arrest warrant for him in Belgium, using the European Arrest Warrant available to all EU member states, Spanish newspaper El Pais said on Tuesday.

Bekaert said he was preparing a response to a hypothetical extradition challenge from the Spanish government, El Periódico reported.

Earlier this month, Puigdemont told Germany’s BILD newspaper he was “not afraid of being arrested” over his pursuit of independence. He did not respond when asked the question again on Tuesday.

Demonstrators hold up a banner depicting Puigdemont and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy kissing, with the caption:

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Demonstrators hold up a banner depicting Puigdemont and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy kissing, with the caption: “Let’s get rid of hate.”
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Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty

Puigdemont said on Tuesday that he and some of his ministers would run Catalonia from Brussels “indefinitely,” in an attempt “to highlight the Catalan problem in the heart of Europe and to denounce the partiality of justice” in Spain.

According to Sky News, the ousted leader also said he and his ministers would only return if Spain “can guarantee… a just, independent process, with the separation of powers that we have in the majority of European nations.”

However, two of the ministers – who were also ordered to appear in court – returned to Barcelona on Tuesday night, The Times newspaper reported. They arrived to anti-independence demonstrators who waved Spanish flags and shouted “Viva España” (long live Spain).

When the Spain-Catalonia power struggle will end remains unknown. Puigdemont on Tuesday asked Catalans to “prepare for a long road.”

In a New York Times opinion piece on Wednesday, Vice President Junqueras also wrote: “In the coming days, we will have to make decisions, and they will not always be easy to understand.”