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Former Catalan chief seeking immunity for leadership vote

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This photo taken on October 27, 2017, shows Ex-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont at a session of the Catalan parliament in Barcelona on October 27, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Former president of Spain’s Catalonia region has requested the parliament of the semi-autonomous territory to grant him immunity against an arrest warrant so that he can attend a session in which he could be reinstated as head of the regional government.  

Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium following a controversial declaration of independence for Catalonia last year, asked Catalonia’s parliament on Monday to guarantee his position as a member of the chamber so that he could avoid arrest over charges of rebellion and sedition.

Spain's Constitutional Court has ruled that Puigdemont, who won back his seat in the December 21 general elections, must get court permission to attend the Tuesday session of Catalonia’s parliament.

His lawyer said it was unlikely for Puigdemont to seek that permission. However, reports suggested he would take part in the session which the Constitutional Court has said would not be valid if the fugitive leader attends without the permit.

Puigdemont led a controversial independence campaign for Catalonia that began with a referendum on October 1, 2017. He then ignored Madrid’s threats to launch a crackdown and declared the region’s independence in a parliamentary session on October 27. The Spanish government then ordered the dissolution of the regional parliament and sacked Puigdemont’s government. Senior figures of the independence drive were arrested while warrants were issued for Puigdemont and four of his cabinet members who had escaped to Belgium.

Puigdemont’s followers have warned that they would stage protests outside the regional parliament in Barcelona if another candidate is picked for leadership in the Tuesday session.

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