Latest: Belgium vows to keep Spain informed over 'current circumstances'

Update 3pm: The Belgian government has said it will keep in contact with the Spanish authorities about the stay of ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont on its territory.

Belgian prime minister Charles Michel said on Tuesday that Mr Puigdemont, who arrived in Brussels the previous day, will not be granted any special favours.

Mr Michel said in a statement that "the government will have regular diplomatic contacts with Spain regarding the current circumstances".

The government insisted it had not made any effort to encourage Mr Puigdemont to come to Belgium.

Mr Puigdemont insisted during a news conference on Tuesday he had no plans to ask for asylum in Belgium and would return once conditions allowed him.

He said he was drawn to Brussels not as the capital of Belgium but as the seat of the main European Union institutions.

Sacked Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont arrives for a press conference in Brussels. Photo: AP Photo/Olivier Matthys

AP

Update 12.40pm: Ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has called for violence to be avoided and has said dialogue is a priority.

Mr Puigdemont, speaking in Belgium, said his team would continue to work despite Spain's dissolution of his regional administration following the disputed independence vote and that separatists would "accept the challenge" of elections in December.

Mr Puigdemont on Tuesday recapped the issues which led him to leave for Belgium the previous day, but did not immediately say in his statement what he would do in Brussels or whether he would seek asylum.

Mr Puigdemont told journalists Spain wanted "'us to abandon our political project, and they won't achieve it".

He had arrived at Brussels Press Club for a news conference amid speculation that he would claim asylum.

Mr Puigdemont walked into the building past a few protesters with Spanish national flags and one sign that said Rule Of Law.

He then said he had come to Brussels to act "in freedom and safety".

Carles Puigdemont

Update 11.30am: Spain's Supreme Court will investigate six ex-members of the governing body of the now-dissolved Catalan parliament for possible charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement following the parliament's declaration of independence last week.

The six include ex-speaker of the parliament Carme Forcadell, one of the leading activists of Catalonia's pro-independence movement for many years.

The ruling on Tuesday came a day after Spain's chief prosecutor Jose Manuel Maza announced he was seeking charges.

Rebellion, sedition and embezzlement charges carry maximum sentences of 30, 15 and six years in prison.

Mr Maza is also seeking similar charges against ousted regional leader Carles Puigdemont, and his number two, Oriol Junqueras.

The court said the case would be handled by Judge Pablo Llarena Conde.

AP

Earlier: Catalonia's ousted regional president will give a news conference in Brussels as speculation mounts as to whether he will request political asylum in Belgium.

Carles Puigdemont arrived in Brussels on Monday, the same day that Spanish prosecutors announced they were seeking rebellion, sedition and embezzlement charges against deposed Catalan officials, including the ex-regional leader.

European officials said Mr Puigdemont would speak publicly on Tuesday in Brussels.

Over the weekend, a Belgian government official said that it would not be "unrealistic" for Mr Puigdemont to request asylum.

Belgium allows asylum requests by citizens of other European Union nations, and in the past, some Basque separatists were not extradited to Spain while they sought asylum, causing years of friction.

Meanwhile, one of Catalonia's main separatist civil society groups said that while it considered that Spain "illegitimately" called an early regional election, it was an opportunity to get a mandate to "ratify the republic".

The Assemblea Nacional Catalana, or ANC, which only recognises an independent Catalan republic, made a statement Tuesday, after its leaders held a meeting late Monday.

The ANC said that elections to be held on December 21 cannot be considered to have full democratic guarantees because they were "illegitimately called by the government in Madrid" and because two activists are in jail pending sedition charges, including ANC leader Jordi Sanchez.

But the statement said that grassroots organisations need to prepare a "joint strategy" before the regional election with the goal of "obtaining an uncontested victory that will ratify the Republic".


KEYWORDS: Catalonia, Spain

 

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