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article imageSpain turns to court to block Puigdemont's Catalan comeback bid

By AFP     Jan 26, 2018 in World

The Spanish government on Friday announced a legal challenge against former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont's comeback bid, on the grounds that he is wanted for his role in the region's failed independence drive.

Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium after the Catalan parliament declared independence in October, was earlier this week chosen as its candidate to lead Catalonia again after December elections saw separatist parties win an absolute majority of seats.

Catalonia's regional parliament is scheduled to debate on Tuesday whether to reinstall Puigdemont, who faces arrest for rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds for his attempt to break Catalonia from Spain as soon as he comes back.

"A person who is wanted in national territory for such serious crimes cannot try to be sworn in as head of the Catalan government without having faced up to his responsibilities with the law," Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said after announcing the appeal to the country's Constitutional Court.

"The government must use every tool made available by the laws and the constitution to make sure that a fugitive, someone who is on the run from the law and the courts, cannot be illegitimately be sworn in."

The government's legal challenge has already been filed with the Constitutional Court, a court spokesman said. If the court agrees to take up the case, it could order that the Catalan parliament's planned investiture vote is suspended.

The government turned to the court even though the Council of State -- its top consultative body which advises on serious issues -- advised against the move late on Thursday, saying a "preventive challenge" was banned by the constitution.

But Saenz de Santamaria said that while the government respects the body's "legal criteria", its opinion "is not binding for the government".

Keeping the foor open: Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent said the Constitutional Court's...
Keeping the foor open: Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent said the Constitutional Court's decision would be considered in both legal and political terms
Josep LAGO, AFP

The newly elected speaker of the Catalan parliament, Roger Torrent, said Puigdemont remains the sole candidate to head the new Catalan government.

"When we have the decision of the Constitutional Court we will analyse the response, both in legal terms, which is the responsibility of the assembly’s legal department, as well as in political terms," he said.

Separatist parties won 70 of the 135 seats in Catalonia's regional parliament -- two less than in the 2015 election -- during last month's snap election, called by Spain's central government which imposed direct rule on Catalonia after its assembly declared independence in October.

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