By Cristina Hodgson • 14 January 2020 • 17:13
DESPITE an arrest warrant against him in Spain, the Catalan pro-independence politician, Carles Puigdemont arrived for his first session as a member of the European Parliament yesterday (Monday).
Puigdemont is a Catalan politician and journalist from Spain. He lives in self-imposed exile in Belgium, under threat of arrest if he returns to Spain. A former Mayor of Girona, Puigdemont served as President of the Government of Catalonia from January 2016 to October 2017 when he was removed from office by the Spanish Government following the unilateral Catalan declaration of independence and his presence at the EU parliament yesterday has sparked fury with many in Spain.
The former Catalan president and new EU legislator is set on using the parliament to continue his political fight for an independent Catalonia breaking away from Spain. His parliamentary position also gives him immunity.
Puigdemont took advantage of the media frenzy on his arrival at parliament and demanded the immediate release from a Spanish jail of another Catalan leader who was elected to the European Parliament, former Catalonia vice president Oriol Junqueras.
“He should be here with us. He has the same rights,” Puigdemont said, backed by posters demanding “Free Junqueras.”
Not only was Puigdemont arrival at the legislature in the early afternoon, cheered by a few hundred supporters who had over a dozen Catalan flags proudly fluttering with the afternoon breeze, as they shouted “Puigdemont president,” the presence of the former Catalan president at the EU parliament with the additional exposure it gives him has come as a severe blow to the central authorities in Madrid, who have sought time and time again to quash the drive of Catalan separatism from Spain.
Even more infuriating for many Spaniards were Puigdemont words on his arrival, taunting: “Spain tried to ban us… but today we are here, finally.”
The regional Catalan coalition government was also in the French city of Strasbourg to show their support to the former Catalan president.
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