President Puigdemont Returns to Belgium

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.


Puigdemont will Return to Belgium on Saturday to Activate the Council of the Republic

Exiled Catalan President Carles Puigdemont will return to Waterloo (Belgium) next Saturday to activate the Council of the Republic following the withdrawal of his European Arrest Warrant (EAW) by Spanish Supreme Judge Llarena.

The Council of the Republic will be “a government in exile” led by Puigdemont and also formed by the exiles Ponsatí, Serret, Comín, Puig, Gabriel, and Rovira. This government will have the mission to internationalize the Catalan cause, to find “ways” to implement the Catalan Republic, and to promote the constituent process in order to create the drafting of the future Republic.

The Council of the Republic is expected to be free to act in Belgium without the problems imposed by the police and Spanish justice. The Council should represent the country’s diversity, which is why it will also have the representation of local communities and associations.

The design envisaged in principle and that in the coming days will take control of the body is to be composed of two institutions: the Council of the Republic and the Assembly of Representatives. The Council of the Republic will be the government in exile. It will meet every week and will coordinate politically with the Catalan government presided over by President Torra.

With regard to the Assembly of Representatives, this will be equivalent to the parliament in exile, in charge of any other executive powers. The Assembly of Representatives will have the deputies of the independentist parties that now represent the majority of the Catalan parliament but will add representatives from the city councils and more institutions, with the intention of constituting a Catalan national institution with greater representation. Both the Council and the Assembly will generally meet in Brussels, but the possibility of meeting in Catalonia is not ruled out, which may cause new problems with Spanish institutions.

Formally, both institutions will be private, in order to avoid becoming trapped in the legal web that Spain wants to build. Politically, its public performance will be covered by the Catalan government, which will incorporate the decisions taken by the board to the extent that it is legally possible. The council, however, will escape the Spanish repression and will be able to take on tasks that could not be carried out otherwise, as in the case of Catalan delegations abroad. It is clear that the two bodies will continue to be banned by the Spanish government, but they can be activated from the free space in Brussels practically in the same format that they had used so far. In Brussels, the drafting of the Constitution of the Republic will also be piloted from an ample popular discussion movement that receives broad input.

The Spanish Supreme Court Is Expected to Withdraw Puigdemont’s Extradition Order

Spanish Supreme Court Judge Llarena is expected to withdraw the extradition order against exiled Catalan President Puigdemont in the next few days. On Thursday, the German court of Schleswig-Holstein decided to extradite Puigdemont for embezzlement, but not for rebellion, the charge sought by the Spanish Supreme Court.

This decision compromises Judge Llarena’s instruction against the ex-members of the Catalan government who held the referendum. 

Given that the acceptance of Puigdemont’s extradition would mean that he, “ex-leader” of the Catalan government, would be judged neither for rebellion nor for sedition, Judge Llarena has apparently decided to reject his extradition in order to be able to judge the rest of imprisoned Catalan leaders for rebellion without showing a lack of justice in Spain.

The image of President Puigdemont, “ex-leader” of the Catalan government, being judged for the minor crime of misusing public funds, with maximum penalties of up to 6 years in prison, while the rest of Catalan leaders, who played a minor role in the organization of the independence referendum, are judged for rebellion with penalties of up to 30 years in prison,would be controversial and would make evident the lack of justice and the non- existence of separation of powers in Spain.

Llarena already withdrew another extradition request for Puigdemont and three former ministers in Belgium last December. But he re-activated it after a few months, which caused outrage across European governments, which said that the judge was abusing the extradition request system.

Llarena may also take another unlikely path, taking the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). However, he appears not to be willing to take the risk of losing an appeal at a European court since it would show the lack of justice in Spain and would probably force him to release all Catalan political prisoners.

Requesting a preliminary ruling for the CJEU is a legal procedure, which enables courts of member states to question the interpretation or validity of an EU law.

If the Spanish Supreme Court requests the ruling, Puigdemont’s extradition would be frozen until it is resolved, which could take up to 16 months.

On the other hand, if Llarena doesn’t take any action, the extradition would take place in a few weeks, unless Puigdemont’s defense appeals the decision at the court of Schleswig-Holstein or at the German Constitutional Court.

Puigdemont’s lawyer, Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas, said they were planning to appeal at the German Constitutional Court. “It might be a denial of the extradition.”

Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister Borrell Urges Ambassadors to Behave like the Spanish Ambassador to the US Morenés

Josep Borrell said diplomats must intervene like the Spanish ambassador to the US, Morenés, last week when he accused President Torra of being a liar and denied the existence of Catalan political prisoners during the inauguration of the Smithsonian Festival, in Washington.

President Torra and the whole Catalan delegation left the reception and accused the ambassador of delivering an insulting speech against the Catalans. Dozens of attendees immediately reacted to the offending speech by shouting “free the political prisoners” at the ambassador, before following the president out of the event.

Morenés also accused Torra of spreading “propaganda.” “In Spain, there are no political prisoners …. there are some politicians who, despite having been repeatedly warned by their own legal services, decided to bend parliament regulation and violate the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia and the (Spanish) Constitution,” he said. Borrell defended these words saying, “No ambassador should remain passive to President Torra’s attacks on Spain.”

President Torra later said that what happened was “intolerable.” He called on Spanish PM Sánchez to say whether he and the Socialist party shared the ambassador’s opinion on what’s happening in Catalonia. Since then Torra and his administration have called for the immediate resignation of Morenés because this level of insult cannot be tolerated in public institutions.

The Spanish Socialist Party and PM Sánchez defended Morenés speech and attitude on Monday, arguing that he said the truth about what is happening in Catalonia, including the non-existence of political prisoners.

Earlier this week, Borrell took a step further and urged all Spanish ambassadors to keep the same “offensive” attitude against President Torra and other Catalan high-ranking officials who give speeches abroad.