Spanish court says Puigdemont must attend parliament in person

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont addresses the media after a meeting with Roger Torrent, speaker of Catalan Parliament, in Brussels, Belgium, January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s Constitutional Court said on Saturday the former leader of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, could only attend a swearing-in session to become regional leader if he was physically present in the parliament and had a judge’s permission to attend.

Puigdemont, living in Brussels since October, is wanted in Spain on charges of sedition and rebellion for spearheading an independence movement. He is due to face a vote of confidence as the region’s only presidential candidate on Jan. 30.

Supporters of Puigdemont have said he could rule the region remotely by video link.

The Constitutional Court - the country’s highest legal authority on constitutional matters - said it would make a decision on whether to consider the Spanish government’s challenge to Puigdemont’s legitimacy as presidential candidate once it has spoken to all parties concerned.

Under Spanish law, once the court officially accepts the government’s challenge for consideration, Puigdemont’s candidacy will be suspended while the court decides on its legitimacy.

This will be a setback for pro-independence parties, who hold a majority in the Catalan parliament following December elections, and who have put forward Puigdemont as the only candidate to lead the region.

The Spanish government challenged his appointment as sole presidential candidate in the Constitutional Court on Friday, saying that a fugitive from justice could not become the head of the regional administration.

However, Puigdemont’s party, Junts per Catalunya (“Together for Catalonia”) said on Saturday there was no basis under Spanish law for him to be barred from standing as president.

Reporting by Sonya Dowset, editing by Louise Heavens