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Exiled leader Meritxell Serret returns after over three years in Belgium

Supreme Court releases her and she will be able to set foot in Catalonia again in the coming hours

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11 March 2021 03:09 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

The exiled Catalan leader Meritxell Serret has set foot in Spain once again after spending over three years in Belgium, ever since the wake of the 2017 independence push.

Upon her arrival, she appeared before Spain's Supreme Court where she is the subject of a criminal case. The magistrates decided to release her although she has been summoned for a hearing on April 8.

"I am here because I maintain my commitment, I want to be an MP and exercise my political rights," she said, adding that she wants to be part of an anti-repression bloc within the independence camp and move forward towards a democratic solution for the Catalonia-Spain conflict.

Hours later, Serret arrived in her hometown of Vallfogona de Balaguer, a small town north of Lleida, and was greeted by a crowd of some 300 wellwishers.

"You do not know how happy I am to see you," she told those who awaited her arrival, adding that she hoped "all others who are in exile or unfairly imprisoned" are able to return home the same way she was able to so on Thursday. 

MP after Catalan election

The agriculture minister during the 2017 referendum announced on Monday that she was resigning from her post as Catalan delegate in the EU in order to take up her role as an MP with the pro-independence party Esquerra Republicana.

She was picked as representative after the February 14 election, after having been included in Esquerra's list of candidates at the eleventh hour.

Serret said in a statement made public by Esquerra on Thursday morning that she wants to "maintain the fight against the repression the independence camp is suffering and in favor of self-determination, doing politics from Catalonia and trying to pave the way to the return of the rest of political exiles."

Exiled but without arrest warrant

Yet, Serret had been in exile in Brussels ever since the Catalan parliament declared independence in October 2017.

Unlike other exiled leaders such as Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín, and Clara Ponsatí, Serret was not included in the European arrest warrants on Catalan leaders issued by Spain in the wake of the Catalan referendum trial verdict in October 2019, so she was not facing any extradition request. 

She faced two in the past, one of which withdrawn by Spain's Supreme Court in December 2017 to avoid rejection by Belgium's courts, and the second dismissed by Belgium for "formal errors."

Yet, she is indicted for the referendum case over the charges of disobedience and also misuse of public funds, something that might carry a prison sentence.

Reactions

Shortly after the news was made public, several reactions unfolded, including that of the former Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, also in exile. 

"I hope the re-union with her beloved ones compensates all the injustice suffered," he tweeted, wishing her all the best. 

Oriol Junqueras, the president of Serret's party, Esquerra, now in prison, tweeted: "I am very looking forward to hugging you, dear Meritxell Serret! We will put an end to the repression against the independence camp!"

Unionist Ciudadanos' Nacho Martín Blanco expressed that it is "normal" that she has returned. 

"What is not normal is that she had not appeared [before the Supreme Court] before, and what continues as abnormal is that Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí do not appear before justice."

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  • Meritxell Serret photographed during an interview with the Catalan News Agency in July 2020 (by Nazaret Romero)

  • Meritxell Serret photographed during an interview with the Catalan News Agency in July 2020 (by Nazaret Romero)

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