Court: Puigdemont must return for re-election

Oscar Cross
January 29, 2018

Puigdemont's supporters have said that he could rule from overseas by video link but has said he would rather return to Spain as long as he is given guarantees that he will not be arrested.

Ousted Catalonia's leader Carles Puigdemont, now residing in Belgium, may be sworn in as the head of the regional government only after attending the Catalan parliament in person, the Spanish Constitutional Court ruled on Saturday.

The separatist leader fled Spain after the regional parliament made an unsuccessful declaration of independence on October 27 in violation of Spain's Constitution.

Josep Rull, an MP from the Together...

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has requested the session be suspended as long as Mr Puigdemont was the candidate, but the court said it needed longer to consider this.

He is now wanted in Spain on possible rebellion and sedition charges and is likely to be arrested if he returns to the country.

Spain's Constitutional Court has ruled that Mr Puigdemont has to be present in parliament to be chosen as the region's leader and must do this by asking a judge to give him the go-ahead.

It had been speculated that he could try to return to Barcelona and sneak back into the parliament to be present on Tuesday, but the court added a stipulation that his attendance must be authorised by a judge for it to be legal.

Speaking on television last week, Home Affairs Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said a police operation was being prepared to prevent a surprise arrival in Catalonia by Puigdemont: "We'll try to prevent him getting into the parliament, even inside the trunk of a vehicle", Zoido said.

Puigdemont's supporters have said he could be sworn in to office via videoconference from Brussels and rule from overseas, a plan Spain's central government opposes.

The court included a warning to the speaker of the Catalan parliament and the other members of his board that they would be breaking the law if they disobey the rulings.

The court said it would need more time to study whether there were grounds to suspend the session.

The court's decision was unanimous. "Carles Puigdemont, whether or not he is president of Catalonia in the coming years. will enter into the history books". Puigdemont has insisted that his goal is to "restore" his government, and even a short-lived return to power by him would be a huge embarrassment for Rajoy.

But in December, separatists won a majority in a regional parliamentary election.

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