Catalonia’s deposed president Carles Puigdemont surfaces in Brussels

World Today

Sacked Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont looks on after a press conference in Brussels, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017. Ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont is calling for avoiding violence and says dialogue is a priority during his first address on Belgian soil. Puigdemont on Tuesday recapped the issues which led him to leave for Belgium the previous day, but did not immediately say in his statement what he would do in Brussels or whether he would seek asylum. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)

A Spanish judge is summoning ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and some of his former colleagues to appear in court. This as Puigdemont and five Cabinet members appeared in Belgium.

CGTN’s Mariam Zaidi reports from Brussels.

Follow Mariam Zaidi on Twitter @zaidi_mariam

A crush of TV cameras greeted the elusive Carles Puigdemont as he came out of hiding. Twenty-four hours earlier, the deposed Catalan leader fled to the European Union capital with several of his fellow ex-ministers. Spain’s attorney general filed rebellion and sedition charges against them following the Catalan government’s declaration of independence from Spain.

There had been anticipation Puigdemont had come to claim political asylum in Belgium, especially as the Belgian migration minister had days earlier indicated he would welcome such a claim. But Puigdemont attempted to quash the speculation.

“I am not here in order to demand political asylum,” he said. “This is not a Belgian question. I’m here in Brussels as the capital of Europe. I’m here in order to act with freedom and safety.”

Some observers said Puigdemont is trying to force the EU’s hand, attempting to get it to broker legal guarantees from Spain. To him, only the EU can provide protection from what he called the “vengeful” tactics of the Spanish authorities.

“We are not trying to escape justice. We will not neglect our responsibility in the face of justice. But we will face serious political injustice at the hands of the Spanish government.”

Outside, some fellow Catalonians living in Brussels weren’t so convinced. 

“I think he’s desperate,” Lucia Palomino said. “The EU members will never support this because it goes against the constitution, against the rule of law and against democracy in Spain.”

EU policy is to not interfere in the internal affairs of one of its member states, and even Belgium seemed to be distancing itself from the crisis on Tuesday.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said Puigdemont was not invited to Belgium, but he has the same rights as any EU citizen; no more and no less.

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