Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has said he will not attempt to reclaim his office in the wake of his failed bid for Catalan independence last year, instead throwing his support behind imprisoned MP Jordi Sànchez, according to the Guardian.
“No one represents the values of JxCat (Together for Catalonia party) better than him and he is a man of peace who is unjustly locked in a Spanish prison,” Puigdemont said, in a video shared on social media Thursday, in which he also “provisionally” withdrew his candidacy.
In addition, the former president announced plans to create an organization that will promote Catalan independence from abroad, called the Council of the Republic. To observers, it may appear that Puigdemont, who would face arrest if he were to return to Spain, is forming a government in exile.
“I will not throw in the towel, I will not quit, I will not give up in the face of the illegitimate behavior of those who lost at the ballot box or the capriciousness of those who are prepared to forfeit the rule of law and justice as the price for national unity,” he added. “Madrid no longer has any excuse for continuing its occupation policy nor for carrying on ignoring our voice or imposing a colonial vision on our future.”
He said lawyers had filed a formal complaint with the UN’s human rights committee over the Spanish government’s moves to quash hopes for Catalan independence following a successful referendum last year. After the referendum, which was declared illegal by the Spanish government, Sànchez was arrested alongside another leader from the independence movement. The two have been accused of leveraging massive demonstrations to prevent Spanish police from stopping the vote. Puigdemont has been in exile in Brussels since then, with charges in Spain including rebellion, sedition, and misuse of public funds. Amnesty International has called for Sànchez to be released, saying the move is “an excessive and disproportionate restriction on his right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”
“I’m confident that we will win in the end, and one day I will be able to return to Catalonia as a free man,” said Puigdemont.
The stalemate between the independence movement and Spanish government is likely to persist, with Sànchez still in custody. Just hours before Puigdemont’s announcement, three separatist parties passed a motion affirming the legitimacy his candidacy and the independence referendum, stopping short of endorsing the independence declaration that followed the referendum.
The referendum yielded a victory for independence, supported by 90 percent of voters – although, it was boycotted by Catalans who wished to remain a part of Spain, with only 42 percent of voters participating. The Spanish government took direct control of the regional government in response.
In January, TV cameras captured a private admission from Puigdemont saying that the movement for independence had failed.