Deposed Catalan leader Puigdemont says to return to Belgium

 

Carles Puigdemont had been living in Germany for the last four months. (AFP pic)

BERLIN: Catalonia’s deposed president Carles Puigdemont, who has been in Germany for four months, said on Wednesday he will return to Belgium after a Spanish judge dropped a European arrest warrant for him.

“This weekend I will return to Belgium,” the separatist leader told a news conference in Berlin, adding his “political activity will be based in Belgium”.

Fired as Catalan president after a failed secession bid on October 27, Puigdemont fled to Brussels several days later as did several members of his executive who had also been deposed.

There, he settled in Waterloo before being arrested in Germany at the end of March on his return from a trip to Finland.

Puigdemont was freed on bail around 10 days later and set about waiting for a German court decision on an extradition request by Spain, where he is wanted over his role in the independence drive.

But on Thursday, Spain’s Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena, in charge of the case against secessionist leaders, dropped the international arrest warrant.

From Belgium, Puigdemont will be able to travel where he wants, except for Spain where he is still wanted for rebellion, which carries up to 25 years in jail, as well as misuse of public funds.

In theory, he could remain in self-exile for 20 years, which in Spain’s legal system is the time limit after which the rebellion charge is no longer valid.