The Latest: Belgian politician criticizes Spanish govt

The Latest on the political crisis in Catalonia( all times local ):

12: 35 p.m.

The leader of the biggest party in Belgium’s government says that Spain’s governing Popular Party is increasingly harking back to the days of despot Francisco Franco half a century ago.

N-VA leader Bart De Wever told VRT network Monday: “You know where the past of the Popular Party is, and ever more its present — and it is Franco, it is repression, it is jailing people because of their sentiment, it is the use of violence against its citizens.”

De Wever himself is not a member of the center-right government but he speaks for his party, which is key in the four-party coalition of Prime Minister Charles Michel.

Belgian judicial authorities will have to decide whether to extradite ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to Spain. De Wever remained noncommittal on what his party would do if the courts decide to send him back. De Wever has called Puigdemont “a friend.”

“Firstly, it is a judicial decision, and we have to wait for it. So, if there is a decision we will assess the situation, ” De Wever said.

“This is not a judicial conflict it is a political conflict. You solve it with dialogue.”

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11 a. m.

Ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has blamed Spain in his first online remark after being released from detention in Belgium, where he’s fighting extradition to Spain for allegedly plotting a insurrection in Catalonia.

Puigdemont posted Monday on his Twitter account: “Free and without bail.” He says “our thoughts are with the comrades unjustly jailed by a state that strays far from democratic practices.”

A Brussels judge released Puigdemont and four close separatist friends Sunday on condition they stay in Belgium and attend court sessions.

The five fled to Belgium after Spanish authorities sacked them on Oct. 28 for seeking secession for Catalonia. Nine other deposed Cabinet members in the same rebellion case were sent to jail in Madrid, eight of them without bail, while the judge’s investigation continues.

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