YESTERDAY Catalan president Carles Puigdemont held a noon press conference in Brussels to explain why he had left Spain, and to outline his perspectives.
He said that last Friday night Catalan MPs realised ‘that the Spanish government was seeking very offensive, aggressive, measures against Catalonia and the government.’ He added: ‘These charges from the prosecutor confirmed this yesterday, with possible sentences of up to 500 years altogether and possible arrest. For this reason we agreed on Friday that we wanted to prioritise moderation and prudence.
‘We said once again that dialogue and moderation always has to prevail in order to carry on with our objectives. I want to remind you that before and after the referendum, we always offered dialogue to the end, even offering to suspend the declaration of independence. But this course was rejected by both the Popular Party and the Socialist Party, they don’t want to confront the problem, the political problem that we have.’
He added: ‘All the decisions we’ve been making since Friday have always been based on these values – plurality, neutrality.’ He stressed: ‘We cannot build a republic from violence. If the Spanish state wants to use violence this will be their decision but we cannot trust things to a state where everything is based on oppression.
‘We are not going to put our public service workers in danger. If this means the building of a republic will be slower, we are willing to pay this price. It is a sign of responsibility that the Catalan republic is going to be a different state. Yesterday, we saw the public prosecutor bringing charges against us. These charges confirm the very extreme oppression that the Spanish side are using. These charges have no real legal base. The only objective is to go against people, and up to 30 years in prison for all of us.’
However, he went on to say: ‘The election the Spanish government has called is a democratic opportunity. We will respect the result of this election. The question is, will the Spanish government respect the election or not.’
He warned the Spanish government’s ‘violence and sending people to prison needs to end because everyone in Europe will pay for that.’ In answer to questions, Puigdemont said: ‘I’m here in Brussels to talk to Europe’ as the Spanish government ‘are out for vengeance’. He said he was not seeking political asylum.
He was asked: ‘What do you say to people who say you created chaos and then fled?’ Puigdemont replied: ‘The Spanish police violence caused the chaos.’ Asked if he is prepared to go to jail, he passed the microphone to a female minister next to him, who said: ‘I will be prepared to go to jail for 30 years if there is a fair trial.’
In a separate development yesterday, Spain’s Guardia Civil, a paramilitary force charged with police duties, raided the offices of the Catalan police force. According to media reports, they searched eight offices for communications relating to the referendum on 1st October.