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Exiled Catalan leader vows to form new government despite Spanish 'threats'

Puigdemont faces arrest if he returns to Spain over his role in the last year’s independence drive.

Carles Puigdemont takes off his coat as he prepares to take part in the debate at the University of Copenhagen.
Carles Puigdemont takes off his coat as he prepares to take part in the debate at the University of Copenhagen.
Image: AP/PA Images

OUSTED CATALAN LEADER Carles Puigdemont has vowed to form a new government despite “threats” from the central government in Madrid, after a Spanish judge refused to re-issue a European warrant for his arrest.

Speaking at a debate on Catalonia at the University of Copenhagen, Puigdemont said: “We will not surrender to authoritarianism despite Madrid’s threats.”

Soon we will form a new government… it’s time to end their oppression and find a political solution for Catalonia.

Puigdemont’s comments came hours after the speaker of the Catalan parliament proposed him as president of Catalonia following an election in December in which separatist parties once again won an absolute majority.

Roger Torrent said Puigdemont’s candidacy to once again head Catalonia’s regional government is “absolutely legitimate”, even though the secessionist leader faces criminal proceedings in Spain over his role in Catalonia’s independence drive.

Denmark Spain Catalonia Puigdemont poses for pictures as he arrives to take part in the debate. Source: AP/PA Images

Puigdemont defied Spanish prosecutors’ attempt to re-issue a European arrest warrant if he left Belgium, where he has been in exile since a failed independence bid.

But Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena turned down the request, arguing Puigdemont had gone to Denmark “to provoke this arrest abroad” as part of a strategy to boost his arguments in favour of being allowed to be sworn in as president of Catalonia again.

Puigdemont wants to be sworn in from Belgium, where he fled in late October after the Catalan parliament declared unilateral independence, sparking shock waves across an EU already shaken by Britain’s vote to leave.

Madrid sacked Puigdemont and his entire government, and it dissolved the parliament following the declaration.

Charged with rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds, Puigdemont now faces arrest if he returns to Spain over his role in the independence drive.

“Fundamental freedoms have been undermined, democratically elected politicians have been sent to prison and treated like terrorists,” he told students in Copenhagen, describing the moves as acts of “revenge”.

© AFP 2018

READ: Explainer: What now for Catalonia after the separatists secured election victory?>

READ: Ousted Catalan president wants to return to the region following election victory>

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