MADRID Ė A meeting that had been scheduled to take place between the current speaker of the Catalan regional parliament and the ousted former Catalan president in Brussels, where the latter lives in self-imposed exile, was blocked on Wednesday by order of the Spanish government, officials said.
Roger Torrent flew to the Belgian capital for talks with Carles Puigdemont aimed at drawing up a contingency plan to have the sacked former president reinstated but their chosen venue, the regional Catalan government office in Brussels, was placed off-limits by Spainís conservative government.
Sources from the Spanish foreign ministry said instructions were given to prevent the meeting and cancel the scheduled press conference using powers the State assumed upon the application of Article 155 of the Constitution which, on Oct. 27, rescinded an illegal declaration of independence in Catalonia and brought the regionís devolved institutions under Madridís direct-rule.
Torrent and Puigdemont eventually held their meeting at a different venue.
The Brussels office was one of the only foreign dispatches kept in operation following Article 155.
Torrent was due to tell Puigdemont that an investiture vote aimed at reinstating the former president would take place during a regional parliament plenary on Jan. 30.
Puigdemont, a prominent separatist politician and leader of Together For Catalonia (JxC) party, fled to Brussels in the wake of the independence declaration to avoid an arrest warrant in Spain where he is wanted on suspicion of having committed rebellion, sedition and misused public funds, charges that if confirmed by a judicial probe could carry a 30-year prison sentence.
A loose alliance of separatist parties led by JxC won a slim majority in the Dec. 21 snap elections in Catalonia, which were convened by the Spanish government to revive the dissolved regional chamber.
Torrent is a member of the Republic Left of Catalonia, a pro-independence party whose leader and former vice-president of Catalonia, Oriol Junqueras, remained in pretrial detention in Madrid, awaiting a probe into the same alleged offenses.