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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Puigdemont denies he’s giving up after phone message leak

Texts were published in which the former Catalan leader said the Spanish government had won

Spain's Telecinco television channel revealed a series of mobile phone messages written by Mr Puigdemont in which he says it's likely all over for him. AFP/LLUIS GENE
Spain's Telecinco television channel revealed a series of mobile phone messages written by Mr Puigdemont in which he says it's likely all over for him. AFP/LLUIS GENE

Fugitive former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont denied Monday he was giving up the fight for re-election as regional president following the publication of text messages in which he reportedly said the Spanish government had won the battle in Catalonia.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Mr Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium months ago and faces arrest should he return to Catalonia or Spain, said he was “human and there are times that I also doubt.” But he added that he was president “and I won’t cower or step back”, adding “We continue!”

He was apparently reacting to a Spanish television channel’s publication of images showing private phone messages he allegedly sent Tuesday to a fellow fugitive lawmaker, Toni Comin, saying the battle was over and that he had been sacrificed by his allies.

On Tuesday, the Catalan parliament postponed indefinitely a session in which Mr Puigdemont was due to be re-elected president of the region.

The postponement left the pro-Catalan independence camp in disarray and the appointment of a president and formation of a new regional government uncertain.

The Spanish government seized control of the Catalonia region in late October, and called new Catalan elections in a bid to quell the region’s illegal independence drive.

Mr Puigdemont was re-elected as lawmaker in December. Spain's top court ruled recently that he could only be re-elected as president if physically present in the Parliament in Barcelona and must first obtain court permission.

Spain’s Telecinco published the phone text messages Wednesday, saying they were obtained when Mr Comin was seen checking his phone during the filming of an event.

In his tweet, Mr Puigdemont did not mention the messages but wrote: “I am a journalist and I have always understood that there are limits, such as privacy, which should never be violated.”

Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said “the time had come to accept publicly what is said privately”. She called on the Catalan Parliament Speaker to start contacts with regional parties to choose a new candidate.

Mr Comin, one of four ex-Catalan ministers who fled to Brussels with Mr Puigdemont, warned on Twitter he may take legal action over the publication of the messages, adding that “any message devoid of its context always loses its meaning.”

The text messages appear to have been sent around the same time on Tuesday that Mr Puigdemont’s camp aired a video of him reacting to the Parliament postponement. He said he was standing firm and called on pro-independence lawmakers to remain unified in re-electing him.