January 12, 2018 / 3:32 PM / 5 months ago

Fugitive former leader cannot rule Catalonia from abroad says Madrid

MADRID (Reuters) - The Spanish government dismissed outright on Friday the possibility of former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont ruling the region from self-imposed exile in Brussels, and said Madrid would contest any attempt to do so in the courts.

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont attends a meeting with his party 'Junts per Catalunya' parliament group in Brussels, Belgium January 12, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Catalan separatists agreed on Wednesday to try to re-elect Puigdemont as regional leader, raising the scenario of the fugitive former leader governing by video link from Belgium. He faces arrest in Spain for sedition and rebellion.

“Parliamentary rules are very clear,” said Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo at a weekly press conference. “They do not contemplate the possibility of a (parliamentary) presence that is not in person.”

“This aspiration is a fallacy, it’s totally unrealistic and it goes against the rule books and common sense,” he added.

Puigdemont spearheaded a movement last year for the wealthy northeastern region of Catalonia to split from Spain, culminating in Madrid sacking his administration and imposing direct rule. He moved to Brussels shortly afterwards.

Reporting By Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Julien Toyer and Jon Boyle

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