Expatica news

Catalan separatist leader returns to Brussels: lawyer

Exiled former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont was back in Belgium Monday after his arrest in Italy but will return at the weekend for a hearing over a Spanish extradition request, his lawyer said.

“He is in Brussels and will return to Sardinia on Sunday,” Gonzalo Boye told AFP.

A member of the European Parliament, Puigdemont was arrested in Sardinia on Thursday evening and spent the night in prison before a brief court hearing a day later.

The 58-year-old is wanted by Madrid on charges of sedition for leading a failed Catalan bid to declare independence from Spain in October 2017, fleeing to Belgium to avoid prosecution.

Italian judges must now decide whether he should be extradited, with the court in the northern town of Sassari saying he was free to leave but must return for the hearing on October 4.

Following his release late on Friday, Puigdemont said he would return to Brussels, where he has been based since late 2017.

His lawyer in Sardinia has insisted there was no basis for his arrest, nor for his extradition.

Catalonia’s separatist regional government tried to stage an independence referendum in 2017 despite a ban by Madrid, which was marred by police violence.

Several weeks later, they issued a short-lived declaration of independence, triggering a huge political crisis with Spain, and prompting Puigdemont and several others to flee abroad.

Those who stayed behind were arrested and put on trial, with nine of them jailed for between nine and 13 years.

Although they were pardoned earlier this year, Madrid still wants Puigdemont and the others to face justice over the secession bid.