Catalan leader flies out as Spain threatens rebellion charge
BARCELONA, SPAIN— Spanish government officials confirm that ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has travelled to Brussels.
Spain’s state prosecutor said Monday that he would seek charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement against members of Catalonia’s ousted secessionist government, pushing the crisis over the region’s independence declaration into an uncertain new phase.
Chief prosecutor Jose Manuel Maza said he would ask judges for preventive measures against the politicians and the governing body of the Catalan parliament that declared in- dependence last week. He didn’t specify if those would include their immediate arrest and detention before trial.
Maza didn’t name any of those facing charges, but they include Puigdemont, his No. 2 Oriol Junqueras and Catalan parliamentary speaker Carme Forcadell.
The announcement came as Catalonia’s civil servants returned to work for the first time since Spain dismissed the separatist regional government and imposed direct control.
Puigdemont’s trip to Brussels came after Belgian Asylum State Secretary Theo Francken said over the weekend that it would be “not unrealistic” for Puigdemont to request asylum.
The uncertainty over Puigdemont’s whereabouts and his plans continued the game of political cat-andmouse with which the Catalan leader has tormented the central government.
Also Monday, Puigdemont’s party indicated it is ready to fight in the Dec. 21 early regional election called by the national government, scotching fears the pro-independence parties might boycott the ballot to deny it legitimacy. The centre-right PDeCAT party vowed to defeat prounion political forces in Catalonia.
As dozens of journalists, curious onlookers and bemused tourists gathered in the square outside the Gothic government palace in central Barcelona, residents expressed con- fusion about who was actually in charge of Catalonia.
“I don’t know — the Catalan government says they are in charge, but the Spanish government says they are,” said Cristina Guillen, an employee in a nearby bag shop. “So I have no idea, really.
“What I really think is that nobody is in charge right now,” she said.
At least one portrait of Puigdemont was still hanging on a wall inside the Catalan government’s Generalitat building.
At least one member of the ousted government defied his dismissal by showing up at work and posting a photo on Twitter from his formal office.
“In the office, exercising the re- sponsibilities entrusted to us by the people of Catalonia,” said Josep Rull, who until last week was the region’s top official in charge of territorial affairs.
Spanish authorities say deposed officials will be allowed to take their personal belongings from official buildings, but are barred from performing any official duties.
Separatist parties and grassroots groups have spoken of waging a campaign of disobedience to hamper the efforts by central authorities to run the region.
A key factor will be how Catalonia’s estimated 200,000 public workers react to the dismissal of their bosses, and whether any stay away from work in protest.