Catalonia’s sacked President Carles Puigdemont today said he would accept the result of snap regional elections imposed by Madrid, as the independence crisis in Spain’s richest region entered a new phase.
Mr Puigdemont was speaking in Brussels where he and five former cabinet members have fled after they were charged with sedition by the Spanish government following a declaration of independence for the region.
They were widely expected to claim political asylum, but during a crowded press conference in the Belgian capital Mr Puigdemont denied they were trying to evade justice and said they had flown to Brussels so they could speak freely.
He said he would accept the results of the December 21 elections, but called on Spain to do the same if the separatists won the vote.
Attorney-General Jose Manuel Maza has filed two lawsuits against the ousted Catalan cabinet and the regional parliament, amid mounting tensions following this month’s referendum.
Spain’s Supreme Court has also charged the speaker of the disputed Catalan Parliament with rebellion, while other cabinet members have been charged with misuse of public funds.
It means that they could face decades in prison, with rebellion, sedition, and misuse of public funds carrying maximum jail terms of 30, 15 and six years respectively.
The independence vote, judged illegal by judges in Madrid, has triggered Spain’s biggest constitutional crisis for decades.
Last Friday Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy assumed control over the region, sacked the secessionist government, calling a snap election just before Christmas.
Puigdemont’s Catalan European Democratic Party confirmed it would take part in December’s elections “with a commitment to letting the Catalan people express themselves”.
Disputed vice president Oriol Junqueras’ ERC party also said it would participate.
Spanish students at the University of Sheffield have been giving their opinion on the Catalonia crisis.
Jose Manuel Camacho said: “We are in a very difficult situation. I believe the Catalans should be allowed to vote but the only way to a solution is dialogue. I do not feel there is real will to solve it from both sides.”
Enric Garcia added: “As a Catalan, I feel our desires have been ignored and now, with the 155 article, our institutions are under threat.
“There are crazy days, and we don’t really know what is happening but we live in these times in the hope of being heard and helped by third parties.”