Catalonia crisis: Puigdemont's Denmark visit a 'provocation'

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
The ex-leader appeared at the University of Copenhagen on Monday

A Spanish Supreme Court judge has accused Catalonia's former leader Carles Puigdemont of trying to provoke his own arrest by travelling abroad.

Judge Pablo Llarena's comment came as he rejected a prosecutor's request to reissue a European arrest warrant.

Mr Puigdemont is on a trip to Denmark from Belgium, where he fled in October.

In Spain he is wanted for rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds, after leading an independence referendum that was ruled illegal.

The charges carry a potential prison sentence of up to 30 years.

A European arrest warrant for him and four deputies was dropped in December by the court, which said it could complicate Spain's own legal probe and control over the case.

A request for it to be reissued was submitted on Monday by prosecutors, following news that Mr Puigdemont had left Belgium for the first known time since fleeing.

Judge Llarena turned the request down, saying it was important to wait until "constitutional order" had returned to the region.

He accused Mr Puigdemont of travelling to Denmark "to provoke his arrest abroad" as part of a wider strategy to legitimise his efforts to resume his position as Catalan president.

The judge wrote that the move would "equip him with a justification that his absence is not a free decision as a fugitive, but the consequence of a situation that has been imposed on him".

Ruling from abroad?

The controversy came as Mr Puigdemont was nominated by the speaker of the Catalan parliament, Roger Torrent, to head the regional government on Monday.

Mr Torrent said Mr Puigdemont's candidacy to lead was "absolutely legitimate" despite the charges against him.

The Spanish government says he cannot govern from abroad. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy reiterated on Saturday it would be considered "illegal".

But Mr Puigdemont's supporters say it would be possible with modern technology.

His candidacy will be voted on by the end of the month.

His party emerged as the largest of the three separatist groupings in Catalonia's regional election in December. Together the parties secured 70 out of the 135 seats.