Catalan leader who declared 'I am not afraid' of arrest reportedly fled Spain

 

  • After declaring Catalonia's independence last week, sacked leader Carles Puigdemont has turned up in Belgium.
  • Spain sacked the Catalan government on Friday and has since announced charges of rebellion against Puigdemont and 13 of his colleagues.
  • Puigdemont previously declared "I am not afraid" of being arrested for organizing Catalonia's banned independence referendum.
  • Now that he is in Belgium, he may seek asylum.

Sacked Catalonia President Carles Puigdemont left Spain late Monday.

Puigdemont reportedly arrived in Brussels, Germany, according to The New York Times, in a dramatic move for the regional leader who, when asked earlier this month about a possible arrest, said "Personally, I am not afraid of that."

Puigdemont led Catalonia's controversial independence referendum before making a declaration of independence last week. In response, Spain's government invoked Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution on Friday to take direct control of Catalonia. Puigdemont and the region's entire parliament was sacked. 

It was the first time Spain had ever invoked direct rule.

Puigdemont alleged departure came just hours after Spain's attorney general announced a number of charges, including rebellion, against Puigdemont and 13 other Catalan politicians. Rebellion carries a possible sentence of 30 years.  

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Deadline for Spanish ultimatum on Catalan independence
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Deadline for Spanish ultimatum on Catalan independence
Catalan regional government president Carles Puigdemont arrives at the Generalitat Palace in Barcelona on October 19, 2017. Puigdemont, who sparked Spain's worst political crisis in decades by holding a banned independence referendum on October 1, has been ordered by Madrid to say by 10:00 am (0800 GMT) whether or not he is unilaterally declaring a split from Spain. / AFP PHOTO / PAU BARRENA (Photo credit should read PAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 19: A clock on City Hall of Barcelona shows shortly after 10am on October 19, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. Catalonia's regional president Carles Puigdemont let a 10am deadline set by the Spanish government pass and threatened to declare independence. The Spanish government responded by announcing it will suspend Catalonia's autonomous status beginning Saturday. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Pedestrians pass by a doorway painted in the colors of the Catalan seperatist flag and the word Arran, (A Catalan pro-indpendence leftist youth organization) in Barcelona, Spain, October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 19: A television crew does a standup report outside the Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya, the building that houses the Catalonian presidency, shortly before 10am on October 19, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. Catalonia's regional president Carles Puigdemont let a 10am deadline set by the Spanish government pass and threatened to declare independence. The Spanish government responded by announcing it will suspend Catalonia's autonomous status beginning Saturday. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Tourists with umbrellas walk in the rain outside the Generalitat Palace (Catalan government headquarters) in Barcelona on October 19, 2017. Spain said today it will press ahead with suspending all or part of Catalonia's autonomy after the region's leader warned he may declare independence, heralding an unprecedented escalation of the country's worst political crisis in decades. / AFP PHOTO / PAU BARRENA (Photo credit should read PAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty Images)
Picture shows a copy of the letter sent by Catalan regional government president Carles Puigdemont to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on October 19, 2017 in Madrid. Catalonia's leader clarified today that independence had not been declared, but warned he could go ahead with announcing a split from Spain if Madrid follows through on a threat to suspend the region's autonomy. / AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Spanish Minister of Education, Culture and Sports and Government spokesperson Inigo Mendez de Vigo arrives to make a statement on the situation in Catalonia at the Spanish Congress in Madrid, October 19, 2017. Spain said today it will press ahead with suspending all or part of Catalonia's autonomy after the region's leader warned he may declare independence, heralding an unprecedented escalation of the country's worst political crisis in decades. / AFP PHOTO / OSCAR DEL POZO (Photo credit should read OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP/Getty Images)
Spanish Minister of Education, Culture and Sports and Government spokesperson Inigo Mendez de Vigo arrives to make a statement on the situation in Catalonia at the Spanish Congress in Madrid, October 19, 2017. Spain said today it will press ahead with suspending all or part of Catalonia's autonomy after the region's leader warned he may declare independence, heralding an unprecedented escalation of the country's worst political crisis in decades. / AFP PHOTO / OSCAR DEL POZO (Photo credit should read OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP/Getty Images)
Spanish Minister of Education, Culture and Sports and Government spokesperson Inigo Mendez de Vigo (C) makes a statement on the situation in Catalonia at the Spanish Congress in Madrid, October 19, 2017. Spain said today it will press ahead with suspending all or part of Catalonia's autonomy after the region's leader warned he may declare independence, heralding an unprecedented escalation of the country's worst political crisis in decades. / AFP PHOTO / OSCAR DEL POZO (Photo credit should read OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP/Getty Images)
A man with a backpack in the colors of a Catalan separatist flag passes near the regional government headquarters the Generalitat, after the final ten o'clock deadline set by Spain's government for Catalan President Carles Puigdemont to retract an ambiguous declaration of independence, in Barcelona, Spain, October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Soccer Football - Champions League - FC Barcelona vs Olympiacos - Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain - October 18, 2017 Fans in the stands display the Estelada (Catalan flag of independence) REUTERS/Albert Gea
Soccer Football - Champions League - FC Barcelona vs Olympiacos - Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain - October 18, 2017 Pitch invader displays t shirt in support of Catalan independence whilst being escorted out of the stadium by stewards REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado
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The Times reported that Puigdemont hired lawyer Paul Bekaert, who described himself as having "experience in extradition and political asylum" and said that Puigdemont may seek asylum in Belgium.

Brussels is home to the headquarters of the European Union which would place Belgium in a difficult position if Puigdemont did seek asylum. The EU was largely silent during Catalonia's push for independence.

Puigdemont is expected to give a speech from Brussels on Tuesday.

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SEE ALSO: 14 Catalan leaders are being charged with rebellion for declaring independence from Spain

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