Speak Up for Catalonia, Puigdemont Tells European Leaders
European politicians should condemn Spain for prosecuting Catalonian officials who are seeking independence for their region, ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said Tuesday.
In an interview in Brussels, where Puigdemont is facing extradition to Spain, the separatist leader said there was an “absolute disconnect between the interests of the people and the European elites.” Catalonia’s problem is an “issue of human rights that requires maximum attention,” Puigdemont told Catalan public radio.
Puigdemont turned himself in to Belgian police Sunday along with four other associates. The Spanish government had issued an arrest warrant for Puigdemont on Friday on charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement that carry a maximum sentence of 30 years. He and four close allies were freed Sunday on condition they stay in Belgium and attend court sessions.
Spain is suffering one of its worst political crises of the past 40 years, which took a major turn Oct. 1 when 2.26 million people in Catalonia (about 43 percent of the region’s 5.3 million eligible voters) voted in favor of a referendum seeking independence from Spain.
More than 900 people were reported to have been injured that day by police who fired rubber bullets, used clubs and tear gas, and dragged some people by their hair. The Spanish police also caused a loss of 770,000 votes, according to Jordi Turull, a Catalan government spokesperson. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy refused to condemn the violence and declared the referendum illegal.
In response to the referendum results, the Catalan Parliament declared independence Oct. 27, on a 70-39 vote; dozens of opposition members of the 135-seat Parliament boycotted the vote. Within minutes, the Spanish Senate granted the Madrid government unprecedented powers of direct rule over Catalonia, citing Article 155 of the Constitution. Rajoy also used Article 155 to sack Puigdemont and call for regional elections to be held Dec. 21.
During a rally in early October, a pro-independent protester going only by the name Lola told Truthdig, “We need to have the right to determine our future. The Spanish politicians become lawyers of the state. They say the law is more important than the people. We in Catalonia don’t believe that’s how our government should be run.”
Major rallies appear to be likely in Barcelona again this week.