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Puigdemont Accepts Spain Elections as Constitutional Court Suspends Catalan Independence Vote

Puigdemont Accepts Spain Elections as Constitutional Court Suspends Catalan Independence Vote

Tuesday, 31 October, 2017 - 13:00
Sacked Catalan President Carles Puigdemont delivers a statement at the regional government headquarters, in Barcelona, Spain, October 26, 2017. (Reuters)

The sacked leader of the region of Catalonia announced on Tuesday that he was not seeking asylum in Belgium a day after the state prosecutor recommended charges for rebellion and sedition be brought against him.

Speaking from Brussels, Carles Puigdemont declared that he accepted the snap elections called by Spain’s central government in Catalonia.

Spain wants Catalonia "to abandon our political project, and they won't achieve it," he said.

He did not clarify how long he would stay in Belgium, adding he would return to Catalonia when given “guarantees” by the Spanish government.

He said that he came to Belgium to act "in freedom and safety", adding that he was in Brussels because it is the capital of Europe.

He stressed that he would return home "immediately" if a fair judicial process were guaranteed in Spain.

In Spain meanwhile, the Constitutional Court said it is suspending the ousted Catalan parliament's recent vote to declare independence from Spain while it studies its legality.

The parliament made the declaration on Friday. Hours after Catalonia's parliament voted on a unilateral declaration of independence, the Spanish government dissolved the parliament, fired the government and set a date for regional elections December 21.

The ruling Tuesday came after Catalan lawmakers opposed to the parliament vote launched an appeal to the court.

The vote, which was boycotted by opposition lawmakers, passed by 70 votes to 10 in the 135-seat Catalan parliament.

Spain's 1978 constitution says the country is "indissoluble." The top court has consistently ruled against any attempt to move toward Catalan secession.

Earlier, Spain's Supreme Court said it will investigate six ex-members of the governing body of the dissolved Catalan parliament for possible charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement.

The six include ex-speaker of the parliament Carme Forcadell, one of the leading activists of Catalonia's pro-independence movement for many years.

The ruling Tuesday came a day after Spain's chief prosecutor Jose Manuel Maza announced he was seeking charges.

Rebellion, sedition and embezzlement charges carry maximum sentences of 30, 15 and six years in prison.

Maza is also seeking similar charges against Puigdemont, and his No. 2, Oriol Junqueras.

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