Puigdemont Urges Separatists to Unite as His Arrest Order Looms

  • Eight former Catalan officials were jailed on Thursday
  • Spanish judge’s ruling says officials incited ‘insurrection’

Deposed Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, who faces imminent arrest, called on discordant separatist groups to unite ahead of elections as the independence movement seeks to draw energy from the arrest of its leaders.

“It’s the moment for all democrats to unite. For Catalonia, for the freedom of political prisoners and for the Republic,” Puigdemont said Saturday in a tweet that included a sign-up link for a united electoral platform.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy invoked constitutional powers last month to reassert his authority over Catalonia and fire Puigdemont and his government. Since then, eight politicians and two activists have been jailed pending trail, and arrest warrants have been issued for five others, including Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium to try to run a government in exile.

Activists in Barcelona were left rudderless and divided when Puigdemont bolted following his ejection from power. Rajoy called elections for Dec. 21 in a bid to pile pressure on the separatists by forcing them to choose whether to take part.

But the move to ramp up pressure on the separatists and the spectacle of the jailed leaders has also reinvigorated the movement and thrust the constitutional crisis into the international spotlight.

Back in 2015, the separatists joined forces on a platform called Junts pel Si to win a majority in the Catalan assembly when they sealed a partnership with the radicals of the CUP party.

‘Violent Force’

National Court Judge Carmen Lamela wrote in her ruling that the separatists promoted “violent force” and incited “insurrection.”

Puigdemont said on Saturday that he will cooperate with Belgian authorities on the arrest order. Under European arrest warrant procedures, individuals are detained and brought before judges within 24 hours. A court then has 15 days to decide whether to execute the arrest order, according to the Belgian Justice Ministry. Including time for possible appeals, a final decision must be taken with three months and Puigdemont, in this case, would then have to be surrendered to Spain within 10 days.

“I won’t flee justice; I’m willing to submit to justice, but to real justice,” the ousted leader said in an interview with Belgium’s RTBF television on Friday. He said the Spanish courts “can’t guarantee a fair and independent sentence that will be free of the enormous weight and influence of politics.”

“You mustn’t forget that we’re the legitimate government,” Puigdemont said.

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