'I'm being treated like a paedophile', says ousted Catalan president
He and four of his ministers are subjects of a European arrest warrant on charges including rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds, which they are appealing in the Belgian courts.
Speaking from Brussels, he told Sky News: “To be treated like a criminal, like a drug trafficker, a paedophile, like a serial killer, I think this is abuse … this isn’t politics, this is using the courts to do politics.”
He added: “It’s a threat because the crime I am accused of could result in 30 years in prison. It’s madness. It’s not justice, it’s vengeance.
“I am not a rebel. I don’t have the spirit of a rebel nor the wish to be one. I consider myself to be very disciplined. I just want to carry out what my parliament has approved.
“This is very normal, there is nothing rebellious about that. It’s very uncomfortable for me to have this role of a ‘rebel’ and I don’t want to play it.”
Mr Puigdemont handed himself in to Belgian authorities shortly after arriving in Brussels late last month. He said he is not running away from justice but instead seeking a fair trial – something he does not believe he will be given in Madrid.
The former president was forced from power when the Spanish government used its constitutional right to remove the Catalan government and disband its parliament, saying both the referendum and the subsequent declaration of independence were illegal.
Commenting on his fall from power, Mr Puigdemont said: “The Spanish state has damaged democracy in order to stop independence because through democracy, which is the only thing we believe it, the reality is undeniable. So we need to recover that democracy that has been damaged by the Spanish state.”
He also criticised the European Union for not supporting the Catalan separatists, saying: “It is very disappointing to see that in a Europe Union that we are all a part of, they can respond to situations in Poland and Hungary but cannot respond to the situation in Catalonia.”
The Spanish government has called fresh elections in Catalonia set for 21 December in the hope that anti-independence parties will win a majority.
Mr Puigdemont said he would respect the outcome of the vote but wanted Madrid to arrange another referendum on Catalan independence to settle the issue.