Catalonia’s exiled disputed president has refused to return to Spain to face a court summons on charges of rebellion and sedition.
Carles Puigdemont is in Brussels where he fled earlier this week following the announcement of the charges against him, relating to the holding of an independence referendum a month ago.
In a statement the exiled Catalan government, which has had its powers suspended by Spanish authorities, denounced the “political trial” which it said was “without a legal basis that only seeks to punish ideas”.
Mr Puigdemont said some of his ministers would return to Spain to attend the court and make a complaint about the judicial system, but that he and others would stay in Belgium until their safety had been guaranteed.
He said he and his colleagues would remain in Brussels “not to evade justice but to demand it”, criticising the court’s planned “disproportionate penalties equivalent to murder or terrorism”.
Mr Puigdemont spoke to a packed press conference in Brussels on Tuesday where he said the Spanish government was intent on seeking “vengeance” against him.
Though he has said he will not formally claim asylum in the country, the president has hired a Belgian lawyer with experience in resisting extradition attempts.
The lawyer, Paul Bekaert, told Spain’s TV3 channel: “He will not go to Madrid and I have suggested that he be questioned here in Belgium.”
The two-day hearing will start at Spain’s national court in Madrid and continue onto Friday. Mr Puigdemont and 13 others in total are sought by judges for questioning.
The Madrid government has called snap Catalan regional elections for 21 December in order to elect a new Catalan parliament, after the current one voted to declare independence.
The Catalan separatists have said they will accept the result of the polls.
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