January 24, 2018 / 2:47 PM / 4 months ago

Former Catalan leader Puigdemont does not rule out return to Spain

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The former leader of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, said on Tuesday he had not ruled out returning to Spain to attend a vote in the Catalan parliament to choose a new leader, despite facing arrest in that country on charges of sedition and rebellion.

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont addresses the media after a meeting with Roger Torrent, speaker of Catalan Parliament, in Brussels, Belgium, January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman

“There are many possiblities,” he told reporters in Brussels in reference to ways of voting or being sworn in as regional president. “The ideal would be in person. It’s what we all want. We don’t rule out anything.”

Puigdemont fled to Brussels shortly after making an illegal declaration of independence for the wealthy northeastern region at the end of October and he faces a trial on charges that could result in a decades-long prison sentence if he returns to Spain.

However, he regained his seat in the Catalan parliament in a Dec. 21 election that was called by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in the hope that pro-unity parties would win and resolve Spain’s worst political crisis in decades.

That ploy backfired, with parties in favour of a split gaining a slim majority. Puigdemont is the only candidate for regional president put forward by the newly-elected Catalan parliament.

Supporters of Puigdemont have said he could rule remotely by video link. But the Catalan parliament’s own legal experts have said this is not possible and Rajoy has said the government will seek to block any such move in the courts.

Writing by Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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