On Saturday, President Carles Puigdemont returned to Belgium from Germany following the lifting of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) – issued by Spain – that forced him to remain on German soil for four months.
Upon his arrival in Brussels, President Puigdemont met with President Torra, Catalan exiles, and ministers at the Catalan Consulate. They discussed the imminent creation of the Council of the Republic in Waterloo, (Belgium), a government in exile aimed at internationalizing the Catalan cause, and the implementation of the Catalan Republic.
In the afternoon, Presidents Puigdemont and Torra together with exiles traveled to Waterloo. There, in the so-called House of the Republic (the headquarters of the future Council of the Republic), they attended an event to support the jailed pro-independence leaders – some of whom have been behind bars in preventive detention for over nine months now – and welcome President Puigdemont.
Hundreds of supporters attended the event, and Puigdemont expressed his gratitude for their presence.
He said, “Today we celebrate a symbolical important day (referring to his return to Brussels), but we are full of contradictory feelings because the Catalan political prisoners are not able to be present here today as result of the injustice they are going through.” He called numerous times for their immediate release, as well as for continuing the fight for the Catalan Republic.
Prior to Puigdemont’s declaration, President Torra encouraged the crowd, telling the Catalans to continue their fight for freedom.
“Against the indecency of the State, we commit ourselves to fight with hope and in a peaceful way,” he said. “Our fight is honorable, do not let anyone put a stain on this fight. We are fighting for democracy, freedom, and human rights.”
Torra also had words for the Catalan political prisoners, “the brave people who have brought us this far. For them, for future generations, and for all of us, our duty is to make the mandate of the October 1st referendum effective. We already politically proclaimed independence last October, now it’s time to implement the Catalan Republic,” he said.
Among the attendees and participants there were exiles, representatives of Catalan civil society, the pro-independence organizations Catalan National Assembly (ANC,) Òmnium Cultural, La Plataforma per la Llengua as well as representatives from political parties such as ERC and JxCat, members of the Catalan government, the family of the prisoners, and the legal team of the exiles.
The British lawyer of Catalan exiles and prisoners in the United Nations (UN) Ben Emmerson made a strong declaration:
“When in 18 months, Catalonia has its chair in the United Nations as an independent state, I will speak Catalan as well, he said.” Emmerson also affirmed that “the declaration of independence the past October was not a crime.”
“Today is a day when patience is running out and frustration is increasing. Spanish PM Sánchez must come to negotiate [with Puigdemont] before the trial of the prisoners [starts], he said.”
“The Catalan people do not want to go blindly towards independence; the Spanish government must sit down and release the prisoners.
I am only an observer.
I work in the United Nations, and I observe what is happening.
I have no doubt that I am witnessing the birth of a new nation,” he added.
Valtonyc – a Spanish singer who is also in exile to avoid prison after he was sentenced to prison for “terrorism” for the lyrics of one of his songs – said that Spain is a “dictatorship.”
“We cannot speak, we cannot sing, we cannot protest,” he said. “Today, I am the one who is in exile, but tomorrow it could be you, your brother, your son or your friend.”
The event ended with the national anthem of Catalonia and with euphoria from the attendees who got the feeling that the Catalan government may attempt to implement the Catalan Republic by next Autumn/Spring.