Catalan leader to make statement after fleeing to Belgium

The region's leaders are facing charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds

Catalan leader to make statement after fleeing to Belgium

FILE PHOTO: Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont speaks at the Palau Generalitat in Barcelona, 28-10-2017. Image: AP/Press Association Images

Updated 11:10

A representative of Catalonia's disputed president has said he may claim asylum in Brussels.

Carles Puigdemont is expected to host a press conference within the next hour after making his way to the Belgian capital with some of his senior colleagues.

The Catalan leaders are facing charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds from the Spanish State Prosecutor.

Mr Puigdemont's Belgian lawyer, Paul Bekaert has said his client is in high spirits, driven by "strong support among his backers in Catalonia."

He said his client is considering seeking asylum, however that is not certain as yet:

Advisors to Mr Puigdemont have said they are ready to internationalise" Spain's controversial use of Article 155 of the Spanish constitution.”

“The law makes it possible to ask in Belgium as a member of the European Union for asylum – it is possible,” he said.

“But it is not easy.”

Rebellion

On the first working day since his regional government was sacked, Mr Puigdemont and other Catalan leaders were accused of committing offences which carry sentences of up to 30, 15 and six years in prison respectively.

Hours later, Mr Puigdemont and five former members of his cabinet reportedly drove to Marseille, where they boarded a flight to the Belgian capital.

The development sparked rumours they would seek political asylum in Brussels - a prospect that Belgian migration minister Theo Francken described as "not unrealistic" and "100% legal."

Political asylum

However, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel appeared to dampen that suggestion. He asked Mr Francken "not to fan the flames," adding that an asylum request was "absolutely not on the agenda."

Mr Bekaert said: "Puigdemont is not in Belgium to request asylum," only to prepare a legal riposte to any eventual moves by Madrid.

"On this matter (asylum) nothing has yet been decided," he told Flemish television VRT.

"I'm his lawyer in case he needs me," Mr Bekaert said. "At the moment there are no specific dossiers I am preparing for him."

Parliament

Earlier, officials confirmed Catalonia's parliament had been dissolved and that its speaker would only lead a transitional committee until regional elections are held on 21st December.

Pro-independence MP Josep Rull defied Madrid's orders by turning up to work at Catalonia's parliament and was warned by police to pack up his desk or risk being arrested.

Tweeting a picture of himself at his desk, Mr Rull said: "In the office, exercising the responsibilities entrusted to us by the people of Catalonia."

Meanwhile, Mr Puigdemont fuelled speculation he had already arrived at work by posting a picture of what appeared to be the presidential palace.

Elections

Spanish attorney general Jose Manuel Maza said the disputed president and other Catalan leaders had "caused an institutional crisis" by voting to declare independence from Spain on Friday.

Mr Puigdemont's PDeCAT party confirmed it would take part in December's elections "with a commitment to letting the Catalan people express themselves."

Disputed vice president Oriol Junqueras' ERC party also said it would participate.

"Catalans do not fear the ballot box and 21st December should be another opportunity to consolidate the republic," a spokesperson said.