Ex-Catalan leader says can govern region from Belgium

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont says he has the legitimate mandate to rule after his Together for Catalonia list won the most votes within the separatist camp in the December elections

Catalonia's former leader Carles Puigdemont, who was sacked by Madrid over his attempt to break from Spain, said Friday he can govern the region from Belgium as he eyes a comeback after scoring big in elections.

"There are only two options: in prison I would not be able to address people, write, meet people," Puigdemont, who is in self-imposed exile in Belgium and risks arrest on charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds if he returns to Spain, told Catalunya Radio.

"The only way is to continue doing it freely and safely."

"Nowadays big business and academic research projects are essentially managed using new technology," he added.

"These aren't the kind of normal conditions we would have liked, but it's sadly much harder to do it (govern Catalonia) from the Spanish state, where we would be in prison."

Puigdemont, who was sacked along with his cabinet on October 27 after the regional parliament declared independence, is the only candidate of Catalonia's separatist block to lead the region.

He insists he has the legitimate mandate of the people to rule after his Together for Catalonia list won the most votes within the separatist camp in December elections.

But the central government in Madrid has warned it will take the matter to court and keep direct control over Catalonia if Puigdemont tries to govern from Belgium, where he and other ousted regional ministers fled after the October independence declaration.

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