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Spain warns fugitive Catalan leader not to try to sneak back into the country

“We are going to make sure that he can’t even enter in the trunk of a car.”

by Tim Hume
Jan 23 2018, 1:30pm

Spain is ramping up its surveillance of Carles Puigdemont to ensure the fugitive former Catalan leader can’t sneak back into the country to take up his old job,

“We are going to make sure that he can’t even enter in the trunk of a car,” Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoid told Spanish broadcaster Antena 3 on Tuesday.

He said the government’s security specialists were working to counter any methods that Puigdemont, who’s been living in exile since October and faces an arrest warrant if he returns, might use to attempt to re-enter the country – including traveling by boat or helicopter.

“We are very worried, because we don’t know what a person with this behavior might do,” Zoido said.

Puigdemont, the former president of the long-restive Spanish region, was sacked by Madrid in October for spearheading the illegal drive for independence, and fled to Belgium to avoid arrest. He faces charges of rebellion, sedition, and misuse of public funds, which carry a potential prison sentence of up to 30 years, if he returns.

Madrid dismissed the regional parliament in October after it held an unconstitutional referendum and unilaterally declared independence. But the move has failed to snuff out the independence movement completely, and when fresh elections for the regional parliament were held last month, separatist groups won a majority.

Catalan lawmakers rekindled the constitutional crisis Monday by naming Puigdemont as their sole candidate to lead the regional parliament in a vote to be held later this month, setting the stage for another standoff with Madrid.

Puigdemont has claimed that with modern technology, he could perform the role of president remotely from outside Spain. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says that it would be illegal for him to do so – but Catalan separatists have repeatedly defied such edicts in the past.

Cover image: Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont speaks during a media conference in Brussels on Friday, Dec. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

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