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Deposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and former members of the government of Catalonia Clara Ponsati and Meritxell Borras attend a news conference in Brussels, Belgium, on Oct. 31. Photo by Yves Herman/Reuters

Catalan president not returning to Spain for now, lawyer says

Catalonia’s dismissed president Carles Puigdemont is staying in Belgium for the time being, where he can answer the Spanish government’s questions about the region’s attempts to break away from Spain, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Puigdemont and 13 former ministers of the region in northeastern Spain were ordered to appear at the High Court in Madrid on Thursday or pay 6.2 million euros ($7.2 million) in bail.

They face criminal charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds for holding an Oct. 1 referendum on independence, which a Spanish constitutional court ruled was illegal. They face up to 30 years in jail.

Pro-unity demonstrators call for the imprisonment of dismissed Catalan President Carles Puigdemont in Madrid, Spain, on Oct. 28. Photo by Susana Vera/Reuters

Pro-unity demonstrators call for the imprisonment of dismissed Catalan President Carles Puigdemont in Madrid, Spain, on Oct. 28. Photo by Susana Vera/Reuters

Following the referendum, Catalonia’s parliament voted to declare independence on Oct. 27, while some parties boycotted the vote. The Spanish government then dissolved the Catalan regional government. Snap regional elections are scheduled for Dec. 21.

On Monday, Puigdemont and some of his deposed ministers traveled to Belgium, not for asylum, they insisted. Puigdemont has said he will return to Spain once he gets “guarantees.”

Puigdemont’s lawyer said he has gotten no arrest warrant so far.

The issue has divided Catalans, some dreaming of independence and others concerned that becoming a new country would devastate them economically.

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