SPAIN: Catalan leaders seek asylum – “Spanish protocol” is not in their favor
Catalonia’s leaders are reportedly seeking safety in Brussels as they face criminal charges for spearheading the region’s independence movement, throwing up a potentially awkward situation between Belgium, the EU and Spain. Ousted Catalonia leader Carles Puigdemont is expected to make a public appearance Tuesday in Brussels, a day after he traveled there.
Puigdemont’s self-imposed exile came after Spain’s chief prosecutor on Monday called for charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement to be leveled against the Catalan leader, his deputies and other Catalan officials. The charge of rebellion alone carries a maximum prison sentence of 30 years.
EU laws, also known as the ‘Spanish protocol’, are likely to complicate reported efforts by ex-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to seek asylum in Belgium. Despite some exceptions, the Spanish protocol bars EU nationals from obtaining international protection in another member state.
Catalonia held a referendum on October 1 on the question of whether the autonomous region should break away from Spain. The government in Madrid rejected the secession push, and after Catalan lawmakers declared independence last week, the central government asserted control over the region and dissolved the local parliament.
New elections are set for December, and Catalonia’s separatist party announced it would field candidates.