Catalan Ex-leader Puigdemont Pledges Return To Sardinia For Hearing
Umer Jamshaid 25 days ago Sun 26th September 2021 | 01:20 AM
Alghero, Italy, Sept 25 (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 26th Sep, 2021 ) :Exiled former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont said he would return to Belgium on Monday, but promised to come back to Italy for a court hearing there on Spain's request for his extradition.
The declaration was the latest twist in a long-running political saga that began in October 2017 when a referendum was staged by Catalonia's separatist regional government despite a ban by Madrid and the process was marred by police violence.
Puigdemont, who had been arrested in Italy at Spain's request over an independence referendum that Madrid ruled illegal, was speaking a day after he was allowed to walk free from prison pending the October 4 extradition hearing.
"I plan to return to Brussels on Monday because there is a meeting of the foreign trade committee, of which I am a member," the EU lawmaker told journalists in the Sardinian village of Algero, where he was due to attend Adifolk, a Catalan cultural festival.
"I will in fact attend, because every time I have been summoned by the courts, I have presented myself," he added.
According to his Italian lawyer Agostinangelo Marras, a decision on his client's extradition would likely take "weeks." The Italian government for its part has said it will not get involved in Puigdemont's case.
- 'I am free' - "We shall never give in and I shall continue to travel in Europe," he told reporters, declaring that his release indicated he was in the right in his defence of Catalan rights.
The 58-year-old separatist leader had spent the night there after being taken into custody the day before, but his lawyer said he had been told he was free to leave.
Spanish justice accuses Puigdemont of sedition and embezzlement of public funds on connection with his time in charge of Catalonia, a wealthy northeastern region of Spain.
His arrest in Sardinia drew a sharp rebuke from the Catalan government, with regional leader Pere Aragones on Friday demanding Puigdemont's "immediate release" and travelling to the island, where the pair met Saturday.
The arrest also sparked anger in Catalonia as hundreds of pro-independence supporters demonstrated Friday evening outside the Italian consulate in Barcelona.
His detention came at a sensitive time, nine days after the left-leaning Spanish government and regional Catalan authorities resumed negotiations to find a solution to Spain's worst political crisis in decades.
Several weeks after the October 2017 referendum, the separatists issued a short-lived declaration of independence, triggering a huge political crisis with Spain during which Puigdemont and several others fled abroad.
Madrid prosecuted the Catalan separatist leaders that stayed behind, handing nine of them long jail terms.