Thousands of pro-independence Catalans rally in Brussels

Exiled Catalan leader refuses to return to Spain without government guarantees

Catalan Former President Denounces Persecution by Spain

"The organisers of this process have criticised the EU and what it represents, and they have undoubtedly thrown stones over a European roof when they don't support us", she said. One sign showed the face of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker with the question: "Democracy? We defend it when it suits us".

06 de diciembre de 2017, 17:00Brussels, Dec 6 (Prensa Latina) Former President of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont said today that he is subject to political persecution by the Spanish Government of Mariano Rajoy, who dismissed him after boosting the independence of Catalonia.

"Have you ever seen a demonstration like this anywhere to support criminals?"

"So maybe we are not criminals".

Puigdemont and several other regional MPs fled to the Belgian capital after the Spanish government sacked the regional government in response to a unilateral declaration of independence following an illegal referendum vote in October.

However, the judge made clear that the five still face possible charges of sedition and rebellion if they return to Spain, according to a statement from the court.

Puigdemont said on Wednesday he would remain in Belgium for the time being.

Brussels police said Thursday that around 45,000 people attended the rally, which comes just two weeks ahead of regional elections in Catalonia.

At the European Union executive's headquarters, Juncker's deputy Frans Timmermans told reporters he welcomed the "very positive atmosphere" of the demonstration, which took place as campaigning has got under way for a Catalan election which Madrid hopes can end the deadlock created by its refusal to recognize an independence vote Puigdemont held in September. The central government hopes the elections will usher in a new administration that favours unity with Spain.

Polls have separatists and unionist parties in a tie.

But, the former Dutch foreign minister said, there was no change to Commission policy that the dispute with the Barcelona authorities, now removed from office, remains an internal one in which the European Union has no need to intervene because Spain's democratic constitution is functioning in line with European Union values. "What is not permissible under the rule of law is to just ignore the law".

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