Ex-Catalan leader, freed in Belgium, blasts Spain

BRUSSELS/MADRID: Catalonia’s sacked separatist leader Carles Puigdemont on Monday denounced Spain as an undemocratic country that “unjustly” jailed his colleagues, after he was freed on bail in Belgium.
Puigdemont and four former ministers were released with conditions Sunday night after turning themselves in to Belgian authorities to face a Spanish warrant for their arrest on charges of rebellion and sedition.
“Released without bail. Our thoughts are with colleagues unjustly imprisoned by a state that is far from democratic norms,” Puigdemont said on Twitter hours after the five were released Sunday night..
The court’s decision means Puigdemont, who left Spain last month after Madrid fired his secessionist government and dissolved the Catalan parliament, is free to campaign for independence for an election in the region on December 21. The vote is shaping up as a de facto independence referendum.
Puigdemont’s PDeCAT and another secessionist party said at the weekend they might run on a combined ticket, but would need to make a decision on any formal alliance — which might also include other parties — by a deadline of Tuesday.
Alliances could however also form after the election.
The independence push has dragged Spain in to its worst political crisis since its return to democracy four decades ago and has deeply divided the country, fuelling anti-Spanish feelings in Catalonia and nationalist tendencies elsewhere.
Puigdemont turned himself in to Belgian police on Sunday along with four of his ex-ministers, after Spain issued a European arrest warrant on charges of rebellion as well as misuse of public funds.
All five are barred from leaving Belgium without a judge’s consent.
“The next step in the proceedings is the appearance of the five defendants before the Chambre du Conseil within the next 15 days,” prosecutors said in a statement.
— Agencies