Catalonia's Puigdemont denies giving up after 'defeat' texts

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Carles Puigdemont faces arrest if he returns to Spain

Fugitive Catalan politician Carles Puigdemont has denied he is giving up on leading an independent Catalonia after his private text messages were broadcast on Spanish TV.

Mr Puigdemont admitted he had had a moment of doubt but insisted: "We continue!"

In his texts, shown by Telecinco, he said "it is over" and Madrid "has won".

He has been in Belgium since declaring independence in October, which led to sedition and rebellion charges.

The independence declaration followed a controversial referendum, which Spain declared illegal.

Mr Puigdemont was due to attend an event in the Belgian town of Leuven on Tuesday but Toni Comín, an aide, went instead and a camera behind him picked up Mr Puigdemont's messages to him.

"We are seeing the last days of republican Catalonia," one message reads. "The plan of Moncloa [the Spanish prime minister's official residence in Madrid] has won."

He added in another text: "I suppose it is clear that it is over. We have been sacrificed by our own, at least I have."

Responding to the broadcast, Mr Puigdemont accused Telecinco of violating his privacy and said he was still president of Catalonia.

"I am human and there are times that I also doubt," he wrote on Twitter.

"I am also the President and I will not step down out of respect, gratitude and my commitment for the citizens and the country. We keep going!"

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Mr Puigdemont's texts followed remarks by a spokesman for a rival pro-independence party, the Catalan Republican Left, that the Together for Catalonia party leader "might have to be sacrificed".

"It has hurt me greatly, all the insults, rumours and lies that I have received for a common cause," said Mr Puigdemont, who faces arrest if he returns to Spain.

Spain imposed direct rule on largely autonomous Catalonia after October's referendum and hoped that elections in December would end the political crisis there.

But an alliance of separatist parties still held a majority in the Catalan parliament after the vote.

Mr Puigdemont was the only candidate put forward as leader and his supporters suggested that he could carry out the role from Belgium via video link.

But earlier this month Spain's constitutional court ruled that Mr Puigdemont could not lead the region's parliament from abroad.

In a statement, the court said that it was suspending Mr Puigdemont's swearing-in unless he appeared in the Catalonian parliament in person - and received prior permission from the courts to do so.

The charges of rebellion and sedition against Mr Puigdemont are serious, and could result in 30 years in prison.

He says he will now dedicate his time to clearing his name.