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Fugitive former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont denies giving up for re-election fight

Fugitive former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont
By Ciaran Giles

Fugitive former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has denied he is giving up the fight for re-election following the publication of text messages in which he reportedly said the Spanish government has won the battle in Catalonia.

Mr Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium months ago and faces arrest on his return, tweeted that he was human, and "there are times that I also doubt". But he insisted that he is 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 to a fellow fugitive MP, Toni Comin, saying the battle is over and that he has 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 independence drive.

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

Spain's Telecinco published the phone text messages on 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", and 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 that 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 as 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 MPs to remain unified in re-electing him.

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