Ex-Catalan separatist leader to run for EU Parliament seat


MADRID (AP) — A political group that wants Catalonia to break away from Spain and become an independent country says the region’s former president is running for a seat in the European Parliament even though the Spanish government considers him a fugitive.

JxCat — or Together for Catalonia, a ticket that includes the conservative separatist PDeCat party— says Carles Puigdemont will be its top candidate for the May 26 election. PDeCat currently has one lawmaker in the European assembly.

The 56-year-old politician fled to Brussels after leading Catalonia’s attempt to break away in 2017 and has successfully fought his extradition to Spain from both Germany and Belgium.

Puigdemont tweeted Sunday that “It is time to take another step forward to internationalize Catalonia’s right to self-determination: right from the heart of Europe to the whole world.”

The separatist leader already tried to get back in office at the end of 2017 by running in a regional election called by the Spanish government shortly after the secession attempt.

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A pro-independence majority in the regional parliament put him forward to become Catalan president again, but Spanish courts banned the move, arguing that he wasn’t in the country.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Spain can block Puigdemont’s new candidacy for the European Parliament, or even if the Socialist government would want to do that as it tries to stay in power in an upcoming general election at the end of April.

JxCat said the politician has the right to a seat in the European Parliament, because he remains a free person everywhere but Spain.

Oriol Junqueras, the former Catalan vice president, is also a top candidate for both the European and Spain’s national elections with PDeCat’s regional rival, the republican separatist ERC party.

Junqueras has been in jail for more than a year and is currently on trial in Madrid for rebellion and misuse of public funds in connection to the secession attempt.

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