Spain Catalonia: Puigdemont speaks out after arrest in Germany

Image source, Reuters

Image caption,

Supporters of the independence leader rallied in Berlin

Catalonia's ex-leader Carles Puigdemont has urged supporters to keep up the struggle as he faces extradition from Germany over his role in the region's independence referendum.

Wanted in Spain for sedition and rebellion, Mr Puigdemont was speaking for the first time since being detained on a European arrest warrant.

He told supporters Spain was acting in an increasingly "authoritarian" manner.

Independence supporters have marched in Berlin to demand his release.

German judges have 60 days to consider the request to hand him over.

What else did Puigdemont say?

He was speaking in an audio message recorded by Diether Dehm, a German MP from the leftist Die Linke party, who had visited him in prison in the northern town of Neumünster.

Image source, EPA

Image caption,

Mr Puigdemont is wanted in Spain on charges of rebellion and sedition

"As a message I would like to say that we have to go on, we have to go on the way we are, defending our rights, rights that are recognised by the UN as we have a total right to decide our future," he said.

"We cannot let down our guard before a state that is becoming more and more authoritarian and that is curtailing our rights. Let's go on doing things the way we do them, which is non-violent and civilised as we have shown the world in the past years. That is how Catalans do things."

How did he end up in a German prison?

Mr Puigdemont had been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium since Catalonia's parliament unilaterally declared independence from Spain in October.

He is also charged back in Spain with misusing public funds over the holding of last year's unrecognised Catalan referendum on independence from Spain.

He was visiting Finland when the arrest warrant against him was reissued. He slipped out of the country before authorities could arrest him, only to be detained in Germany last Sunday.

The charges he faces in Spain could result in 30 years in prison.

The rulings were considered the most serious challenge to date to the movement. Almost the entire leadership of the Catalan independence movement now faces a major legal fight.

How did we get here?

Video caption,

Why is there a Catalan crisis? The answer is in its past, as Europe correspondent Gavin Lee explains

1 October 2017: The independence referendum takes place in Catalonia; it is deemed illegal by Spain and boycotted by many potential voters

27 October: Catalonia's leaders declare independence, which leads to the Spanish government imposing direct rule on the region and dissolving its parliament

30 October: Charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds are brought against various sacked members of the Catalan government, including Mr Puigdemont

3 November: European Arrest Warrants are issued against Mr Puigdemont and four of his allies, who have all fled to Belgium

5 December: A Spanish judge withdraws the European arrest warrants but says the group still face possible charges for sedition and rebellion

21 December: Carles Puigdemont is re-elected to parliament during Catalan's regional elections - which Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy had called to "restore democracy"

1 March 2018: Mr Puigdemont says he is stepping aside and he backs detained activist Jordi Sanchez to run as Catalonia's president

21 March: Mr Sanchez drops his leadership bid and instead the candidacy is passed to Jordi Turull, who the following day is rejected by hardline separatists

23 March: Mr Turull and various others are arrested in Spain, and the European arrest warrants are reissued