Sacked Catalan leader Puigdemont 'will respect results' of regional December vote
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Catalonia’s ousted separatist leader Carles Puigdemont told reporters in Brussels he would respect the outcome of a Catalan regional vote called by Madrid on December 21, denying rumours he planned to seek asylum in Belgium.
Speaking at a press conference in the Belgian capital on Tuesday, Puigdemont said he accepted the “democratic challenge” of regional elections called for December 21, adding that Catalan nationalists would campaign "with all our strength".
He said Spain’s central government wants Catalonia "to abandon our political project – and they won't achieve it".
The deposed leader said his region's independence drive should "slow down" to avoid further unrest as Madrid imposes direct rule on Catalonia, a move opposed by many.
"We can't build a republic for all on violence," he told a news conference, adding that if it meant "slowing down the development of the republic, then we must consider that a reasonable price to pay".
Puigdemont said he was not trying to escape justice after Spain’s state prosecutor recommended charges for rebellion and sedition be brought against him and other Catalan separatist leaders.
He said he had travelled to Brussels "in freedom and safety" to bring the issue of Catalan independence to the “capital of Europe”, denying rumours he planned to seek asylum in Belgium.
Puigdemont did not clarify how long he would stay in Belgium, adding that he would return home when given "guarantees" by the Spanish government. He said he would return "immediately" if a fair judicial process were guaranteed by Spain.
Minutes earlier, Spain's Constitutional Court said it was cancelling the declaration of independence made by Catalonia's regional parliament last Friday. The declaration followed a disputed October 1 independence referendum called by Puigdemont depite Madrid's ruling that the vote would be illegal.
Spain moved to impose direct control on the wealthy semi-autonomous region a day after Catalonia's unilateral declaration and called for a snap election to replace the regional parliament in a drastic bid to stop the secessionist drive.
The government in Madrid has said Puigdemont is welcome to take his chances and stand in the Dec. 21 election.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)