Dismissed Catalan President Carles Puigdemont is due to appear in a Spanish court this week to answer charges relating to Catalonia's push for independence. However, he is not expected to return to Spain soon and wants to be questioned in Belgium, as his lawyer has said.
If Puigdemont fails to appear before the court, an arrest warrant could be issued that would in turn prevent him from standing in the snap regional election called by the Spanish government for Dec. 21.
Puigdemont and his government were sacked on Friday by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy hours after passing a declaration of independence from Spain through the regional parliament, a vote boycotted by the opposition and considered illegal by Spanish courts.
On Monday, Spain's state prosecutor accused Puigdemont of rebellion and sedition for organizing an independence referendum held on Oct. 1 in defiance of Madrid.
Puigdemont traveled to Belgium on the weekend with other members of the dismissed Catalan administration. He surfaced after reportedly driving to Marseille, France, and taking a plane to the Belgian capital. Although he appeared at a news conference in Brussels on Tuesday, his plans and next moves were unclear.
Spain's High Court summoned Puigdemont and 13 other former members of the Catalan government to testify in Madrid Thursday and Friday on charges of rebellion, sedition and breach of trust. A judge will then decide whether those called to testify should go to jail pending an investigation that could take up to several years and a potential trial.
Three former Catalan government advisors returned to Spain from Belgium late Tuesday and were greeted at Barcelona's international airport by crowds chanting "off to prison."
Puigdemont and three others were not among those returning to Spain. At a packed and chaotic news conference Tuesday, Puigdemont said he was in Brussels "for safety purposes and freedom" and to "explain the Catalan problem in the institutional heart of Europe." He denied that he intended to claim asylum but said he and several other former ministers who traveled with him would return only if they have guarantees that legal proceedings would be impartial.
Prosecutors have asked the courts to order the secessionist Catalan leaders to deposit 6.2 million euros to cover potential liabilities. However, if Puigdemont and his associates do not turn up this could change and, if considered a flight risk, they could be jailed pending trial.
Attention in the crisis over Catalonia is now turning to the December election, called by Rajoy when Madrid took over control of the autonomous region.
Puigdemont said in Brussels Tuesday he accepted the election and Madrid has said he is welcome to stand, even though the legal issue could prevent that.
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