Published: Sun, January 14, 2018
Hi-Tech | By Ellis Neal

Catalans planning to return exiled president - via Skype

Catalans planning to return exiled president - via Skype

MADRID-Catalonia's two main separatist parties have agreed to support the re-election of ousted leader Carles Puigdemont as president, in a sign that pro-independence groups are eager to ratchet up the tension with Spain's central government.

Mr Puigdemont fled to Brussels after Spanish authorities levelled charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds against him for his role in the region's disputed independence referendum.

Speaking to reporters in Barcelona, staunchly pro- independence Carme Forcadell said she would not stay in the post despite having been offered to do so after regional elections on December 21 that saw separatist parties retain their absolute parliamentary majority.

The Catalan Parliament is set to reconvene next Wednesday, under a timetable set by Rajoy, and is expected to elect a regional leader within two weeks.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has called for the Catalan parliament to be formed on January 17.

However, it is unclear how Mr Puigdemont would lead the regional government from Brussels as he could be arrested if he returns to Spain.

The assembly has been convened for its first sitting on January 17 and how that issue and the question of Puigdemont's return as the region's leader are eventually resolved are still to therefore be decided.

Pro-independence parties achieved a slim majority of seats but they failed to get over 50% of the popular vote, bringing no resolution to months of a increasingly bitter impasse.

Mr Puigdemont said on Tuesday at a videoconference that "it is not possible to return to Catalonia" because of the current legal situation.

"It's evident that for governing Catalonia you have to be in Catalonia, you can't do that via WhatsApp or as a hologram", said Ines Arrimadas, the leader of the anti-independence Ciutadans (Citizens) party. He also removed Puigdemont and his Cabinet. On Friday, judges from the Spanish Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the Esquerra leader, Oriol Junqueras, who has been in jail in Madrid since early November, pending his trial on corruption and sedition charges.

Junqueras has asked for release from jail to attend the first meeting of the new Catalan parliament.

The Catalan Parliament's lawyers are set to examine proposals for Mr Puigdemont to read his address via videolink from overseas or have another MP read the speech, according to Spanish media reports.

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