catalan president carles puigdemont nic robertson interview_00002630.jpg
Catalan leader explains indepedence position
02:54 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

The president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, failed to clarify Monday whether his administration had officially declared independence from Spain and instead repeated his call for talks to resolve the ongoing constitutional crisis in the country.

In a letter to the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Puigdemont asked for two months of dialogue over the status of the region in northwest Spain, which held a disputed independence referendum on October 1.

Rajoy had set a deadline of 10 a.m. local time (4 a.m. ET) Monday for Puigdemont to say definitively whether an ambiguous speech he delivered to the Catalan Parliament last week in the wake of the referendum amounted to a declaration of independence.

Catalonia had “earned the right” to become an independent republic, after 90% of voters in the October 1 referendum chose to split from Spain, Puigdemont told the Catalan Parliament. But he suspended the effects of the declaration to allow for talks.

“The suspension on our side of the results that come out of the vote on 1 Oct, shows our firm commitment to find a solution, and avoid confrontation,” Puigdemont wrote in his letter to Rajoy on Monday.

“Our call for dialogue is sincere and honest. That is why over the next two months our main objective is to to invite you to have dialogue, and that all those international, Spanish and Catalan institutions and personalities who have expressed their will to help establish negotiations, have the opportunity to explore this option,” he wrote.

Pro-independence supporters react as they watch on broadcast screens outside the Parliament of Catalunya as the Catalan President Carles Puigdemont announces he will abide by the referendum results on October 10, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain.

In his letter to Rajoy, Puigdemont also called on Madrid to “stop the oppression against Catalan people and Government,” complaining that “non-political” Catalan leaders and the head of the Catalan police force, Josep Lluís Trapero, were being investigated for sedition.

Police chief Trapero was allowed to walk free from a court in Madrid on Monday, though he will have to surrender his passport and not allowed to leave the country without the court’s permission.

He will also have to present himself at the court nearest to his residence once every 15 days.

But the leaders of two Catalan separatist organizations will remain in custody while they continue to be investigated for sedition, Spain’s high court ordered on Monday.

According to a court document detailing the decision, Judge Carmen Lamela Diaz determined that Jordi Sanchez, the head of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), and Jordi Cuixart, head of Omnium Cultural, represented not only a flight risk but that they could also hide, alter or destroy evidence against them.

Spain’s prosecutor’s office alleges that Sanchez and Cuixart were not only responsible for the demonstrations on September 20 and 21, but also key in planning the October 1 referendum on independence that the Spanish government considered illegal.

Thursday deadline

Rajoy had put Catalonia on notice that, if it had officially declared a split, he would invoke provisions contained in Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which allow the central government to dissolve the Catalan administration and order new elections.

The Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria told a press conference in Madrid that Rajoy had replied in writing to Puigdemont setting a deadline for a clear answer by Thursday.

She said the Prime Minister asked Puigdemont “to answer with the clarity any democracy needs. We don’t understand why he perseveres with being confusing unless it is his strategy to escalate the situation further.”

Rajoy’s letter, seen by CNN, also underlined that EU countries have backed the Spanish government’s claims that the referendum was illegal.

Protesters wave Spanish, Catalan and European Union flags in a call for unity on October 8, 2017, in Barcelona, Spain.

Puigdemont wrote that “fundamental rights are being repressed”, with bank accounts frozen, media censorship, private mail being interfered with, civil servants arrested and “brutal violent acts carried out by police against peaceful citizens on 1 October.”

“Our call for dialogue is sincere, despite everything that has occurred, but it obviously incompatible with the current climate of escalating oppression and threats,” he wrote.

CNN’s Vasco Cotovio contributed to this report.