Update 2pm CET, Sunday 5 November 2017
Catalan Leadership Turn Themselves Over To Belgian Police
Catalonia's deposed leader Carles Puigdemont and several former advisers have turned themselves in to Belgian police, meaning it is now up to Belgian justice to decide what happens to him.
The Belgian prosecutor will inform world press by tomorrow morning local time whether Mr Puigdemont and his ministers are handed over to Spain (but that does not seem certain at this moment), or whether they will be tried in Belgium.
Spain’s has not yet officially reacted, but the editorials in its Madrid newspapers this afternoon scream bloody murder, knowing full well that according to the Belgian legal system, the new steps could take months and would allow Mr Puigdemont to stand as a foreign candidate in the elections that will be organized in Catalonia by the end of the year.
Given the precarious situation in the Belgian government, which is ruled by 3 Flemish (northern) and 1 Walloon (southern) political party and where the biggest ruling party also wants independence for Flanders as an ultimate goal, Mr Puigdemont seems to know very well why he picked Brussels as his fleeing destination.
With a warrant for his arrest looming like a hanging sword of Damocles, Mr Carles Puigdemont appeared on Belgian television to explain his need to hide out in the European capital whilst Spanish prosecutors have issued a European-wide demand for his arrest.
Mr Puigdemont, speaking in French, said about the arrest warrant that: “I am ready to face it. I will go to the justice department and I have instructed my lawyers to inform Belgian justice that I am ready to fully cooperate.”
When the RTBF (Belgian National TV) presenter asked him why he chose to cooperate with the Belgian and not the Spanish justice system, Mr Puidgemont claimed that because of politics he would probably not get a fair hearing in Spain.
Mr Puidgemont: “Within less than 24 hours my ministers were called to Madrid and then arrested, giving their lawyers less than one day to study the file.”
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In Spain they are already thinking of a future for Catalonia without Mr Puigdemont and his secessionist dreams. The Spanish government says they will organize elections in Catalonia in December, hoping for more pro-Spain parties to win, but a poll published today shows that they would need to think twice about that.
According to the survey of 1,233 people conducted between October 30th and November 3rd which was published in the La Vanguardia newspaper, the pro-independence parties of Mr Puigdemont, ERC, PDECat and CUP would take between 66 and 69 seats in the 135-seat parliament, in other words, a probable majority.
The conservative newspaper La Razon took a similar poll which simply echoed those figures.
Catalonian independence protesters are furious about the arrest of most of their regional government. Ms Antonia Aguilera, 63, explained her concern that elections wouldn’t be fair and that she expected manipulations by the Spanish government of Mr Mariano Rajoy.
Ms Aguilera: “I‘m disgusted by it all. We knew they would react but not as strongly as they did. And then we’ll be back where we started.”