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Ex-Catalan Leader Ready to Run Re-election Campaign From Belgium

  • VOA News

FILE - Sacked Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont attends a news conference at the Press Club Brussels Europe in Brussels, Belgium, Oct. 31, 2017.

Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont says he will run for re-election in December and, if need be, he will run his campaign from Belgium, where he is currently in hiding.

Speaking to Belgian state broadcaster RTBF on Friday, Puigdemont said he was "ready to be the candidate" in the election scheduled for late December.

"We can run a campaign anywhere, because we're in a globalized world," he said.

Puigdemont's comments came as a Spanish judge was expected to issue an international warrant for his arrest in relation to Puigdemont's role in the region's contested independence drive.

Puigdemont flew to Brussels with four members of his cabinet this week after Spanish authorities removed him and the 13-member cabinet from office for pushing ahead with secession.

If an arrest warrant is issued, Puigdemont will fight extradition without seeking political asylum, according to his Belgian lawyer.

Puigdemont told RTBF he would hand himself in to Belgian authorities, "but not to Spanish justice."

Puigdemont had been due to appear at Spain's National Court on Thursday to answer questions in a rebellion case brought by Spanish prosecutors, but he did not show up.

9 government members jailed

The judge jailed nine former members of Catalonia's separatist government on Wednesday, while they are investigated on possible charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement connected to their push for the region's independence from Spain.

She later granted one of them bail at $58,300.

In an earlier address from Brussels broadcast by Catalan regional television TV3, Puigdemont called for the release of "the legitimate government of Catalonia" as hundreds of people gathered outside the Catalan parliament, also calling for them to be freed.

"As the legitimate president of Catalonia, I demand the release of the members of my cabinet," he said. "I demand respect for all political options, and I demand the end of the political repression."

Puigdemont said the imprisonment of former Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras and eight cabinet members was an attack on democracy and not compatible with a "Europe in the 21st century."

Meanwhile, data released Friday showed that unemployment rose sharply in Catalonia in October, more than anywhere else in Spain, as companies fled in the midst of the country's worst political crisis in decades.