Currently in Belgium, Carles Puigdemont will contest the European Parliament elections, his Catalan party has said. If elected, he would have to return to Spain and face arrest, Spanish media claim.
The breakaway party PDeCat or Together for Catalonia announced Sunday that Carles Puigdemont had been selected to lead the party's list for the European Parliament election on May 26.
Puigdemont, living in self-imposed exile in Belgium, fled Spain in October 2017 after a failed Catalan breakaway bid and has since fought his extradition back to Spain. A referendum calling for Catalan independence was deemed illegal by Spain's Constitutional Court.
In Madrid, 11 Catalan politicians have faced trials over their campaign to secede from Spain.
Read more: Separatist movements beyond Catalonia
Former Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras would also stand in May, according to reports on Sunday.
Three top PDeCat members among those on trial will contest Spain's early general election on April 28, the party said. A fourth would stand for Barcelona in Spanish municipal polls set to run parallel with the European vote on May 26.
Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez last month called the early election after Catalan independence parties joined opposition parties in defeating his 2019 budget bill and warned that Europe must resist "nationalism that excludes people."
'Internationalizing' Catalonia's campaign
Puigdemont tweeted Sunday that he was ready to "internationalize Catalonia's right to self-determination right from the heart of Europe."
His party said the politician, if elected, had the right to a seat in the European Parliament because he remained a free person everywhere but Spain.
Spanish media, however, have said Puigdemont would — under electoral law — have to return to Spain and formally swear to the central electoral board that he would comply with the Spanish Constitution as a European lawmaker.
Shortly after his 2017 flight, Spanish authorities banned Puigdemont from re-election as Catalan president, arguing he was absent from the country.
Socialist Borrell to stand for European Parliament
Sanchez' Socialist party announced last month that its former leader and now Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell would stand in the European elections.
The 71-year-old veteran Catalan politician is staunchly pro-EU and fiercely critical of his region's secessionist movement.
Borrell served as president of the European parliament between 2004 and 2007.
ipj/sms (dpa, AP, Reuters, AFP)