People hold Spanish and Catalonia indolence flags after a speech by sacked Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont in Brussels, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017. Ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont is calling for avoiding violence and says dialogue is a priority during his first address on Belgian soil. 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. (Olivier Matthys/Associated Press)
By Associated Press By Associated Press November 1 at 5:54 AM
BARCELONA, Spain — The Latest on the Spain-Catalonia political crisis (all times local):
The Belgian lawyer for Carles Puigdemont says he does not expect the ousted Catalan president to return to Spain in the coming weeks and certainly not for questioning by a Spanish national court judge on Thursday.
Lawyer Paul Bekaert told VTM network that “he is not going to Madrid.” He added that “as things look now, I cannot see him going back in the next few weeks.”
All 14 members of the sacked Catalan Cabinet are facing possible rebellion charges at home for driving a secessionist bid to a full declaration of independence on Oct. 27. The crimes are punishable with decades behind bars under Spanish law.
A judge has ordered them to appear for questioning on Thursday in Madrid. The investigating magistrate could order their arrest as early as Friday, no matter whether they show up in court or not.
In an interview posted on VTM Wednesday, Bekaert said that if Spain seeks Puigdemont’s extradition it would be up to Belgian judges, not the government, to make a decision.
Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s says that Spain’s seizing control of Catalonia following the region’s declaration of independence should have no immediate effect on the country’s sovereign ratings and outlook, but it warned of possible problems later in the year.
The agency said the government’s decision to intervene and call fresh elections “reduced the likelihood of a short-term escalation of tensions.”
But the agency warned in a note Tuesday that related tensions “could lead to a sustained drop in business and consumer confidence and potential business disruption, especially in Catalonia,” later this year.
S&P reiterated it does not believe Catalan independence will occur, adding that no national government had recognized Catalonia as an independent state.
Its rating for Spain remained at BBB+ with a positive outlook.
Speculation is swirling around whether ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont will defy a Spanish National Court order to appear for questioning Thursday as part of a rebellion probe following Catalan lawmakers’ vote in favor of secession from Spain last week.
Puigdemont appeared at a news conference in Brussels Tuesday, saying he and the five ousted regional Catalan government colleagues who accompanied him there were seeking “freedom and safety” from Spanish authorities.
Two of the officials returned to Barcelona late Tuesday. But it was unclear whether Puigdemont himself would return in time to appear for questioning Thursday. A person close to the ousted government said Puigdemont remained in Brussels Tuesday night.
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