File Photo: AFP
Catalonia's deposed president Carles Puigdemont returns to Belgium on Saturday to keep pressing for his region's independence after a Spanish judge dropped a European arrest warrant for him.
"My political activity will be based in Belgium, of course with the aim of pursuing the mandate by the people" for an independent Catalonia, Puigdemont said in Berlin when he announced his return this week.
Four months after he was detained in Germany at Madrid's request, Puigdemont can return to Belgium as he no longer runs the risk of extradition to Spain after the Spanish court cancelled the warrant.
The 55-year-old former regional leader, with his signature shaggy Beatles-style mop, will continue to fight for Catalan independence south of Brussels in the town of Waterloo, which is known for another battle -- French emperor Napoleon's defeat by a mix of European forces in 1815.
Sacked as Catalan president after a failed secession bid on October 27, Puigdemont and several members of his executive fled to Brussels several days later.
He was then arrested in Germany at the end of March on his return from a trip to Finland.
Puigdemont was freed on bail around 10 days later and set about waiting for a German court decision on an extradition request by Spain, where he is wanted over his role in the independence drive.
But the German court ruled that he could be extradited only on possible corruption charges and not for "rebellion" as sought by Madrid but which is not recognised under German law.
Following that decision, Spain's Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena, in charge of the case against separatist leaders, dropped the international arrest warrant.