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Catalan ex-leader condemns arrests of his government members as ‘attack on democracy’

Puigdemont said he was not trying to escape justice, describing the charges against them as unfounded and politically motivated
Carles Puigdemont AP Photo/Felipe Dana
Carles Puigdemont
© AP Photo/Felipe Dana

BARCELONA, November 3. /TASS/. Former head of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, on Thursday described the Spanish government’s decision to initiate arrests of several Catalan politicians over the unilateral declaration of independence as "an attack on democracy."

"What happened today was a serious attack on democracy," Puigdemont, who is currently in Brussels, said during a video linkup with Catalonia’s TV-3 channel.

"The Spanish government rejects dialogue needed to solve political problems," he said. "And this is a political problem. Instead of choosing dialogue, [the Spanish government] opts for police violence and arrests, which is a road to repressions."

He also said that the current decisions by the Spanish authorities threaten the early elections to the parliament of Catalonia, set by Madrid for December 21.

"What happened today was a blow to the December 21 elections, which will be held amid repressions," he said. "I demand the release of my aides [Catalan ministers] and demand an end to political repressions. By jailing a government just for fulfilling their electoral promises, they openly put themselves above the rule of law."

Earlier, Puigdemont said in a Twitter post that "the legitimate government of Catalonia was put in prison for their ideas and for fulfilling the mandate, approved by the Catalan parliament."

Prosecutors accuse Puigdemont and 13 former members of his government of revolt, rebellion and embezzlement. They face 30 years of imprisonment for sedition against central authorities under the Spanish law.

A Spanish court is yet to decide whether to issue an international arrest warrant for Puigdemont and four of his former ministers, who are currently in Brussels.

The remaining nine members of the regional cabinet of ministers appeared in a court in Madrid earlier in the day, eight of them were later taken to custody after the hearings, including former Catalan deputy head Oriol Junqueras. Prosecutors did not ask detention only for Santi Vila, who resigned of his own accord from the post of the Minister of Business and Knowledge before Catalonia declared its independence from Spain. He was granted bail of 50,000 euro.

On October 27, the Catalan parliament issued a resolution on declaration of an independent republic the operation of which was already suspended by the country’s Constitutional Court. Spain’s Senate satisfied Madrid’s appeal to use Article 155 of the kingdom’s constitution that has never been used before. It makes it possible to restrict Catalonia’s self-governance.

After its approval, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy declared the decision to dismiss Catalan head Carles Puigdemont and his government members from their positions. In addition, Rajoy dissolved the Catalan parliament and set an election in the autonomous community for December 21.

On October 30 it was reported that the region’s former head, along with some of his ex-aides, has left for Brussels. At the same time, Puigdemont said he was not trying to escape justice, describing the charges laid against them as unfounded and politically motivated, and the possible punishment of 30 years in prison - as excessive.