Catalonia's would-be president: from exile to arrest


Barcelona (AFP)

German police on Sunday arrested Catalonia's deposed leader Carles Puigdemont, five months after he went into self-imposed exile in Belgium over his failed bid to break the region away from Spain.

Here is a summary of what happened.

- Secret escape to Brussels -

Madrid is furious when the Catalan parliament votes on October 27 to declare independence in line with a "yes" vote from a banned independence referendum on October 1.

It dissolves the parliament, dismisses its separatist leaders, and calls regional elections for December 21.

Spanish prosecutors seek to charge Puigdemont and others with rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.

He and four parliamentarians surface in Brussels on October 30 after reportedly driving to Marseille in France and taking a plane to the Belgian capital.

Puigdemont tells reporters he came to Belgium "for safety purposes and freedom".

His deputy Oriol Junqueras and other deposed regional ministers are detained on November 2.

- Separatists vote back -

The December 21 election votes separatist parties back into power with 70 seats combined out of 135.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says late December the new regional parliament must reconvene in January and elect a regional president other than Puigdemont.

"It is absurd to pretend to be the president of a region when you live abroad," he says.

The following day, Puigdemont demands from Brussels that Madrid reinstate his government and "restore all they have expropriated from the Catalans without their say-so".

- Puigdemont candidacy backed -

Rajoy says on January 15 that Madrid will maintain direct control of Catalonia if Puigdemont tries to govern from exile. He has "to be physically present" in Catalonia to take office, the prime minister says.

But on January 22 the speaker of the Catalan parliament formally proposes Puigdemont as president.

Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido responds that troops are on alert 24/7 to prevent the Catalan from sneaking home, "even in the boot of a car".

From Brussels, Puigdemont demands the right to return "to contribute to restoring democracy in order to respect election results".

- Standoff deepens -

Spain reiterates on January 26 that it wants Puigdemont arrested.

A "fugitive, someone who is on the run from the law and the courts, cannot be illegitimately sworn in", Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria says.

On January 27 the Constitutional Court suspends the official appointment of Puigdemont unless he appears in person.

Puigdemont had suggested he could be sworn into office remotely via video conference from Brussels.

On January 30 the speaker of parliament postpones a vote to formally re-elect Puigdemont into office.

On February 1 the jailed former Catalan vice president, Junqueras, suggests Puigdemont could rule as a "symbolic" president with a fully functioning executive on site.

- Abandon and arrest -

In a solemn video posted on social media on March 1, Puigdemont announces that he has abandoned his bid for the regional presidency.

A Spanish judge on March 23 issues international arrest warrants against Puigdemont and four other Catalan ministers over their role in the region's independence push.

German police arrests Puigdemont as he crossed the border with Denmark by car.

His lawyer says Puigdemont was on his way back to Belgium from Finland, where he held talks with local lawmakers.