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Fugitive Catalan chief seeks parliament protection for vote

Fugitive Catalan chief seeks parliament protection for vote

MADRID (AP) — Catalonia's fugitive ex-president, Carles Puigdemont, asked the region's parliament on Monday to guarantee his right to attend a session this week in which he hopes to be re-elected government leader, without being arrested.

Spain's Constitutional Court ruled Saturday that Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium following an illegal declaration of independence last October, must be present in parliament to be chosen as the region's chief in Tuesday's session. But a Spanish judge has ordered Puigdemont's arrest on possible rebellion and sedition charges if he re-enters Spain.

The Constitutional Court also said Puigdemont must get court permission to attend the session. Initially, Puigdemont was expected to seek that, but his lawyer said Monday this was unlikely. The lawyer did not rule out Puigdemont's attendance.

The Constitutional Court ruled the session would not be valid if Puigdemont attends without the permit.

Should the Catalan parliament governing board approve Puigdemont's request and encourage his attendance without the permit it would set the chamber on course for further clashes with Spain's government and courts.

Puigdemont is just one of more than a dozen lawmakers and civic group leaders already under investigation for rebellion and sedition relating to an independence push that brought Spain's worst political crisis in decades to a head.

The slim majority regained by separatist lawmakers headed by Puigdemont in Dec. 21 elections has kept the crisis very much alive.

In Tuesday's session, the parliament speaker has two choices. He can ignore the court and allow a vote with Puigdemont present in person, if he turns up, or by video conference, which has been banned by the tribunal.

Alternatively, he can seek another candidate but that would likely outrage the thousands of pro-independence supporters promising to rally outside the chamber.

Polls regularly show most Catalans want the right to decide the region's future, but are evenly divided over splitting from Spain.

Updated : 2022-05-21 04:09 GMT+08:00